How to Make the Perfect Evening Routine for Your Family
Not sure about anyone else, but prior to having children I was really a go with the flow, spontaneous, and take what the day brings me type of person. I loved this lifestyle and although I did try to keep this going I quickly realized that babies, toddlers, and kids of all ages respond better to structure and routine. Sometimes routines can feel so daunting or unrealistic and can make life feel mundane and just one big cycle, but the positive impact on children is amazing. A study examined the daily routines of 8,500 children that they shared with their families. They found each ritual was linked to a 47 percent increase in the odds that children would have high so-called social-emotional health, which indicates good emotional and social skills. Now I fought routines for a long time until I was stressed out every day, rushing every second of the work day and on the struggle bus more than I was living the free and spontaneous life I thought I wanted to keep. I can see why this stress and always rushing was negatively impacting my kids confidence and peace within our household. Even though routines can have some negative feelings around them, the positive impacts really do keep me motivated to improve and stick with routines for our entire family.
Now we didn’t just wake up and have instant routines in our household. We have been working on routines for six years and we are still tweaking and trying to find the right fit for our family. Our routines have changed as we added more kids to our family, our kids got older, we moved, we changed jobs, and we got better at knowing what we needed out of our routines.
Today I am going to talk about our evening routine, but I do have tips for a morning routine (especially if you are not an early bird) that you can check out right here.
Here are the 4 questions to answer and share with your spouse/partner:
- Are you a night owl or early bird? What about your spouse, same or different from you?
- What are the goals you want to achieve with a routine?
- What are the current stressors within your night that need to be changed or improved upon?
- What are all the things that need to get done for a night to be a success? What are things you would love to add to make your night a success?
Let’s tackle why these questions are important to create the perfect night time routine.
#1 Are you a night owl or early bird? What about your spouse, same or different from you?
This will change how you approach your evening routine (and your morning routine to be honest!). I am the night owl and have most of my energy in the evening where my husband is an early bird and is done doing anything productive by 8pm. Since I am the night owl of the family I typically run the evening routine and my husband runs the morning routine for us (as he is the early bird!). Now what I mean by “running” our routine is that we still help out on both the night/morning routine, but the person who is running that specific routine keeps us on track with the routine, does more tasks within the routine and overall keeps us motivated to get items completed to make the next day smoother. Since as a team we are 50% energy in the evening and 50% energy in the morning we try and split our routines evenly between the morning and evening.
Now what if you are both night owls or both early birds? My suggestion is for the majority of your tasks be during the time where you have the most energy. So let’s take if you are both night owls as the example then packing lunches, packing book bags, run dishwasher, do laundry, take showers/baths at night, make coffee and put on timer for AM, get clothes ready for everyone, write a check list for the morning of items need to remember as part of the evening routine. Since both of you are night owls then you can divide and conquer these nightly tasks and have the energy to get these items completed. This will help for the mornings as mornings will be a struggle for both of you. This means that the both of you will need the mornings to basically run themselves and everything is just on auto-pilot.
#2 What are the goals you want to achieve with a routine?
Everyone has different goals for what they want to achieve out of their routine. Every family has different tasks that they want to accomplish and every family is at a different stage in their life. Maybe you are a new mom and the goal is to try to new routine that works with your baby’s schedule and your work schedule. Maybe you just added another child to your family and the goal is to now incorporate the needs of multiple children at different stages of their lives. Maybe your kids are starting to do more after school programs and the goal is to make tweaks to solid routine you already have that just needs tweaks now that you don’t get home at the same time. There are so many reasons for families to have routines and everyone’s goals are personal and specific to your family. Ultimately I think every family wants to run smoother, less stress, and have more time available to enjoy each other at the end of the day. However, how we get to this end goal and routine looks very different for each family. Check out our current evening routine at the end of this post for suggestions if you have kids that are toddler – early school age kids!
#3 What are the current stressors within your night that need to be changed or improved upon?
If I think of our night for about 5 minutes I can quickly list the major stressors that make our nights less enjoyable. My husband and I found we were feeling we were just in the grind more than enjoying our nights together. We were frazzled most evenings and to be honest not being efficient with our time. Once we both wrote down what was stressing us out within our nights we were able to work smarter not harder in the evenings and create a more enjoyable experience for us overall as a family. This is the time to be open about what is currently stressing you out (and vice versa) and to have real talk about what needs to improve in order to have happiness back into your lives. It isn’t easy at first, but the more conversations you have the easier it will become when talking about routines and schedules.
#4 What are all the things that need to get done for a night to be a success? What are things you would love to add to make your night a success?
There are times when life is hectic and we have after school items or even things that spring up on us that are out of our control (like a broken down car) and so the routine can’t be kept on a specific evening. For our family there are three tasks at minimum that need to be completed at night in order for us to have a successful evening as they will impact the morning routine if they are not completed. It is good to be on the same page with your partner about these items so even if you (or the entire family) come home late these items that are important get completed each night. For us the tasks are to empty out lunch bags and run dishwasher as we utilize those items to make lunches in the morning, check daughter’s kindergarten folder for homework or paperwork, and lastly the kids routine can be shortened to pajamas, teeth, and using the bathroom. This helps us get very clear in what needs to get accomplished when either we all get home late or when one of us can’t be part of the evening routine.
We also talked about adding items into our night routine as we wanted to try to fit a workout class into our night time routine. We tried a couple of times with different days and times and unfortunately our nights became too stressful and condensed for us to add one into the night, but we know this is ultimately what we would like in the future. For now we will work out after the children go to bed or early in the morning until we are in a better place to add this to our routine. We did add laundry to our night time routine and this has cut down on the amount of laundry that we have to do on the weekend significantly! So you can add things, try new things to the routine, take away items. It is all up to you and your spouse to find that perfect fit.
Here is what our night time routine looks like on most weekdays.
Some other helpful tips that keep our night time routine running smoothly
- Keep order of routine consistent so that kids can anticipate what is coming next. Less tantrums, they move from one activity to the next without arguments, and they can start to help as they get older and grasp the routine.
- Place items that your kids consistently ask for in arms reach (that are safe). Our kids are constantly asking for water, milk, tissues, etc. We keep all of these items at eye level and in same exact place so they can be independent.
- Leave out cut up fruits and vegetables on table so they are not begging for food while you prep and finalize dinner.
- Don’t sit on the couch. Once we sit on the couch with our kids everything is so much harder to accomplish. We end up procrastinating and it ends up prolonging our night time routine. You name it (dishes, laundry, and homework to name a few) we will avoid it if we are sitting on the couch. So we tend to linger at the kitchen table a little longer to rest or if we are playing with our children we will sit on the floor rather than the couch.
- Have fun! Routines are in place so that you utilize your time more efficiently so that it hopefully leaves you more time to have fun! Find time to play hide and seek, a rematch in trouble, playing outside, or anything else your kids dream up.
What are the challenges that you find with the evening routine? What does your evening look like with your kids? Any tips for moms with school age kids with after care programs? Comment below as I would love to hear what others do to keep their sanity when it comes to their evening routines!