Routines

Military life can bring about many changes, but not everything changes all the time. There is comfort in the familiar, especially in the everyday routines your family shares. Keep some things the same. Create routines to give your child something to look forward to each day as well as a sense of control.

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  • Morning Separation

    Morning Separation

    Most little ones have a hard time with separation at one time or another. When they’re really young, little ones are still learning object permanence—the understanding that you still exist even when they can’t see you (that’s why five-month-olds love peek-a-boo—they’re starting to figure it out)!

    Of course, even as kids grow, you’re still their favorite person! When you combine that fact with all the changes and transitions that military life can bring, you may find kids need extra assurance that you are coming back. Predictable, consistent morning routines can really help.

    Continue old, tried-and-true good-bye routines as you both embark on new beginnings. After all, the family’s on a new adventure, but some things stay the same! You may already have your own, or you can try some of these:

    • Use a special good-bye phrase, such as See you later, alligator (after a while, crocodile).
    • Try fist bumps, a special handshake, a special wave, or three kisses and a hug (or any combination of these).
    • Give your child a little memento of you to keep in her pocket—a handkerchief, a mitten, a stone or shell found during a family trip—anything that reminds her of you.
    • Tie a string around his wrist and tell him that it’s a reminder that you love him and you’ll come back.
    • Kiss her palm and close her hand around it. Tell her she’ll be carrying your kiss with her all day.
    • And, of course, make up your own!
    Next: Bedtime Routines
  • Bedtime Routines

    Bedtime Routines

    It’s pretty understandable that many kids resist bedtime! It’s exciting to be awake, and learning to put yourself to sleep is a skill that takes time. Also, at about age 2, kids can start to develop nighttime fears.

    When you add being in a new house, sleeping in a new room, being tucked into a new bed, and all the other changes military life can present, bedtime can become especially challenging for everyone. Consider these ideas and positive thinking tips that begin building resilience in children at bedtime to make it a smoother, more relaxing ritual:

    • Keep the order of the nighttime routine the same (for instance, pajamas, brushing teeth, choosing and reading a bedtime story, turning out the light, saying good night).
    • Write down the order of bedtimes steps in the routine and then have your child illustrate them.
    • Decide: What is something you can reassure your child will stay the same? Start there! For instance, “A grown-up will read you a story before you go to sleep,” “You’ll give your teddy bear a kiss good-night,” or “We’ll look out the window together for a star to wish upon.”
    • Try special routines such as getting under the covers together and reading with a flashlight, counting fluorescent star stickers on the ceiling, singing a favorite song, giving a backrub, or sharing what you hope you will dream about.
    • And…remember to give yourself a break if you can’t follow the entire routine once in a while. Building resilience in children takes time, but you’ll get there!
    Next: Share a Meal
  • Share a Meal

    Share a Meal

    Dinner Power!

    Food brings us together, and mealtime is relax-and-recharge time! It’s also a time to build positive connections with food, laugh together, and catch up on the day’s ups and downs. (It doesn’t have to be dinner. Even sharing a snack together can be an opportunity to connect.)

    Research shows that family mealtime is good for the overall wellness of all family members.

    Try these positive thinking tips to nourish family relationships and give kids a sense of structure and predictability:

    • In age-appropriate ways, give kids a sense of ownership by involving them in meal preparation.
    • At the table, create a group story by saying something like, “Once there was a little carrot seed.” Then the person next to you contributes a sentence, and so on, until everyone has had a turn.
    • Tell family stories about what you’re eating, such as, “Lasagna reminds me of the first meal your dad and I ever made together after we got married.”
    • Have fun! Have “breakfast for dinner” nights, picnic lunches in the backyard, nights when everyone wears their pajamas to the dinner table, and so on.

    Mealtime Conversation Starters

    Ask questions (try a different one each night!) and give everyone a chance to respond:

    • What do you like most about school (daycare, your new job, our new house) so far?
    • Have you met any new kids? How are they the same as or different from you?
    • What was something kind that someone did for you recently (and vice versa)?
    • Can you think of a special new tradition for our family to try out?
    • What did you feel thankful or grateful for today?
    • Would you want to have superpowers? If so, which ones? How would you use them to help people?
    Next: A Waiting Routine
  • A Waiting Routine

    A Waiting Routine

    How Much Longer?

    To your little one, five minutes can feel like an hour! Developing patience and managing anxiety when waiting takes practice just like any other valuable life skill. When this fact is combined with the realities of military life and all the waiting and changes that brings, it may help to consider these strategies:

    For a Short Wait:

    • Watch the video “Waiting Around” a few times until you and your child remember the tune of the phrase “I can be patient!” Sing it out loud whenever she needs a reminder. Ask, “What did Cookie Monster do when he had to wait? What might you do? Count to ten, draw a picture, do a little dance?”
    • Present a special challenge to pass time (finding all the blue things in the room, counting people in line, looking around for the letter R on a sign, and so on).
    • Explain time in a concrete way: A minute might be “the time it takes to brush your teeth.”
    • Acknowledge how difficult waiting can be, and model patience yourself: “I know it’s hard to wait. When I’m getting tired of waiting, I read my book. I’m going to open my book now and take a few deep breaths. What would you like to do?”
    • Set a timer to show how many minutes your child has to wait.

    For a Long Wait:

    • When children have to wait for long periods—weeks or months—you can help them manage anxiety by marking time in a way they understand. Together, design or create an activity to help mark time. For younger children, make a paper chain with a link for each day they have to wait. Your child can use this to measure time (he can break a link each day).
    • Explain time in kid-friendly ways. For instance, describe a year as “when there is snow on the ground again.”
    • Cross off days on a calendar (you can refer to 24-hour periods as “sleeps,” so a month is “30 sleeps”).
    Next: Additional Resources
  • Additional Resources

    Helpful links related to Routines