It is now a couple of weeks into the new school year! It may be that those new routines that you set for yourself and your family are starting to seem a little too ambitious. If you are noticing that inevitable slip ups and off days are starting to turn into bad habits, you may being asking yourself, how can I help my family stick to new routines?
Here are some tips that will help you harness the power of your prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain where executive functions live and help you manage your life.
Keep Routines Visual
When working on improving your executive function skills, try to keep weak areas as visual as possible. If you rely on memory and other cognitive processes, your brain goes into overload and your energy depletes. Support your skills by posting a visual of your goal and a map of how to get there.
Goal: Photo of them ready for school
Map: Checklist that includes each step or item they need to remember when getting ready to leave the house
Goal: Diagram of their organized backpack and locker
Map: Cue card to manage their organization systems on a consistent basis
Goal: Photo of your family eating a meal together once a week
Map: Calendar with what night everyone will be home for dinner and a list for meal preparation
Make time more concrete
Managing time effectively is a learned skill. As your child grows, their ability to internalize time increases, especially if age-appropriate supports are implemented. In order to support this important executive function skill, try using visual timers. Visual timers make the elusive idea of time more concrete, supporting time management skills. Use them for homework, projects, chores, or getting ready.
Making time more concrete by using visual timers will help your family, child or adult, stick to new routines and build executive function skills. Estimating how much time something will take before starting the task is great practice for accurate planning. Reflecting on why something took less or more time than expected builds awareness of how you do what you do. Finally, setting a timer is a simple task engagement strategy. You see the clock ticking and you get to working! All of these skills are key for reaching goals and maintaining routines. You can purchase visual timers or download them as an app!
Break tasks into smaller steps
For the times when homework seems too overwhelming or the prospect of meeting a work deadline and still managing a household is simply too much, break it down into smaller steps. List out the steps required, put them in order, eliminate the ones that are of lower value if you do not have the time to accomplish everything, and cross them out as you accomplish them. Practice this with kids on easy days when they are not stressed or overwhelmed. That way, they have a framework for how to break tasks down when they are struggling.
Create hands-on lists
Finally, in order to stick to your family’s new routines, make checklists, chores lists, schedules, and task lists as hands-on as possible. Maybe your planner app is not cutting it, and it is worth it to go analog! For kids, laminate daily checklists so they can cross off and check off items or add velcro tabs to their chore list so they can cover up each finished chore. It reinforces their executive function skill development and builds a sort of satisfaction in completing a task.
Do you need help with sticking to new routines?
Sometimes an individual or family needs support and guidance to develop the skills needed for sticking to routines. Investing in yourself and your family to gain the self-management skills necessary for effective time management, goal-directed persistence and task initiation is worth it! Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation if you would like to discuss what coaching could look like for your family.