Mental Health Tips for Families

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Why Routines Promote Positive Behavior

August 19, 2021

In our day-to-day lives, we often catch ourselves falling into patterns known as routines. Many people walk the dog, go to work, clean, exercise, and pay bills on any given day. Sometimes, these simple daily tasks can be a challenge especially if you struggle with a mental health diagnosis.

Creating habits can be comforting and promote positive feelings. Did you know that schedules can also improve mental health and encourage positive behavior?

How Routines Support Mental Health

Setting a new habit can seem daunting, but in reality, schedules offer great benefits to one's mental health. Lifelong benefits can come from healthy habits when practiced daily.  

Here are a few ways routines can support mental health:

  • Increase productivity - Planning for the day ahead and knowing what’s coming up in your schedule allows you to save time and energy that can be used to complete other tasks. 
  • Alleviate stress and anxiety - Creating a routine allows you to build healthy habits, reducing stress and anxiety in the long run. 
  • Create time for things that matter most - A routine gives you the opportunity to take charge and schedule your day based on what is most important to you. 

Completing simple tasks can be satisfying and make you feel positive about yourself, regardless of how small the chore may be.

Routines can also be beneficial for other members of your family. If you have a child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a child who is on the autism spectrum, or a child who struggles with an anxiety disorder, routines can be especially beneficial. 

Helping Children with ADHD Through Routines

Children who are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can struggle with time-management skills, staying organized, and remembering things. This can cause additional stress for a child that may already be experiencing anxiety. 

Teaching children routines and habits can help them create structure and learn how to manage stress in their life. 

Some things to consider while creating a routine to manage ADHD include:

  • Set alarms 30 minutes earlier than scheduled - Mornings can be stressful and hectic. Make sure to build in time for your child to gently wake up and begin their day without the rush.
  • Lay out clothes, pack lunches, and create a task list the night before - Doing this ensures there is one less step in your morning routine, helping you start your day on the right foot.
  • Put electronics away each morning to reduce distractions - Sticking to a schedule and eliminating interruptions keeps everyone on-track.

Creating your daily plan and including exact times when tasks should start and be completed gives clear guidance for both you and your child. Becoming comfortable in your routines and practicing them consistently will align them with daily activities.

Why Routines Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Many children who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can experience hyperactivity and impulsivity. They might show a strong interest in animals, books, video games, music, or electronic devices. Attachment to objects or ideas can be expressed through repetitive behaviors or starting collections. 

Structure and daily routines can help them know what to expect, as well as ease their anxiety about change. Incorporating a schedule to help handle the unpredictability of life can help to ease these anxieties.

Consider some of these tips when developing routines for children with autism spectrum disorders:

  • Create consistent schedules - Children with autism spectrum disorders tend to thrive better when a consistent schedule is in place. 
  • Make use of visual and audible cues - Creating a daily schedule that utilizes pictures, labels, and audible cues can help children with autism spectrum disorders manage change.
  • Set small realistic goals to build confidence - Changing anyone’s pattern can be a challenge. Pay attention to how your child responds to change. You may need to take it slow or practice smaller steps over time.
  • Provide alternatives to habits you are trying to limit - Offer alternatives that might interest them. For example, if your child loves playing with trains, you can read books about them or draw pictures together. 

How Routines Can Help Calm Children with Anxiety

Anxiety is common and it can affect people of all ages, even children. Chronic anxiety, when left untreated, can lead to difficulty sleeping, low energy levels, and even depression. 

Routines can help reduce stress and anxiety. In time, children and adults will create a pattern and accomplish tasks with more ease.

To set yourself up for success in helping your child reduce anxiety through routine, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Reassess goals and progress frequently - If a new practice doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to change it. Adjusting your child’s routine until you find one that works for you can lead to better outcomes.
  • Add on to an existing routine - You may already have a routine your child is comfortable with. Instead of changing everything about it, add new habits to practice. This can lead to a more effective and stress-free routine.
  • Allow your child to take breaks - If a task is taking longer than normal, do not be too hard on yourself or your child. Instead, take a break and start the remainder of the task later. Consistency is key but balance is important. Knowing when it is time to pause and take a break can increase the likelihood of sticking to a routine.

By practicing healthy routines with your family, you can reduce stress and anxiety in your daily life. Follow these tips and send us your questions. We’d love to hear how setting routines helped you.

The Check-In Project is a mental health initiative of Wraparound Osceola. We strive to provide families, schools, and employers with the tools and resources needed to check-in with each other and provide the support needed to break the stigma surrounding mental health.

Email: info@thecheckinproject.ORG// Phone: 407-870-4897