I've talked with quite a few families lately who for one reason or another have got distracted from their home-based routines. Common hot-spots for them have been the mornings, when parents are trying to get themselves and kids out the door, or at the other end of the day when it's time for everyone to get fed, do homework, answer emails, hang out together, and then finally get some sleep of half reasonable quality. When those harder parts of the day don't run well, there can then be some unsettling for people in other parts of their day.
Parents of these families, notice that they all function better when they can maintain some kind of routine or structure. Yet, not be rigid with it, either. Because if for some reason, they don't keep a routine going, then things can get pretty chaotic pretty quickly. There's a simple reason for this - even though we frequently push up against routines and structure, and complain about them (like I do...) we need them, and so long as we have all walked the earth together, we have had them. And routines (or structure, which I'm also lumping in with routine here) tell us what to do - which sounds simple and obvious, I know, yet it's so important.
So it's useful to think about it like this - routine makes our lives more manageable, in that we feel more in charge of ourselves and our immediate environments. An example of how this works is when we find ourselves in strange environments - such as a new country. It feels a bit weird to start with, in part because we don't quite know how things work around here - though sure, the cultural difference will be a likely be a factor. But an equally important factor will be that we don't yet know what the routine is. It's kind of similar in the case of major events like floods and earthquakes - those things are pretty scary, but aside from the intensity of the event itself, a lot of the scariness comes from our sudden loss of structure or routine, and therefore not knowing what will happen next. And we always want to know what happens next, because there's comfort and security in knowing that - humans have always needed to know what will happen next.
There's good evidence that kids function better with routine. Recent research has shown that those kids (and they researched this with 8500 of them, so it's a sizeable study) whose lives are based around regular routines, with these including regular bed-times, plus set times for reading, and eating etc, have higher levels of emotional health and are set up better to become contented adults.
But it's not just the kids. Similar research has shown that adults who have quite set routines and structure in their lives, including a set sleeping time, and are attending to other things consistently will be considerably better with time management - which I guess is an obvious outcome. But it also means these people will also have higher levels of contentment with their lives.
Like anything though, it does not help to become a slave to our routine - that's just as much a trap, as having no routine at all. Routine and structure definitely have a place in our lives, by giving us an important map. But being able to occasionally throw it all out the window is also an important indicator of our ability to be spontaneous and adaptable.
Talk soon - I'm off to have another go at getting some routine happening...
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."