Creating Healthy Routines for You and Your Family

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Dr. Lisa Coyne talks about the importance of routines, explains why it’s okay to slip up from yours, and answers questions about how to create healthy routines for you and your loved ones.

Do you consider yourself to have a routine, or are you more spur of the moment? Do you find yourself missing deadlines, or have you wondered why a loved one can’t be more organized? Routines aren’t just good for ensuring your car keys don’t end up in the fridge—they’ve proven to have many mental health benefits.

This content is also available in Spanish.

Audience Questions

Dr. Coyne answers questions on topics including:

  • When thinking about routines, what’s considered to be sustainable or feasible?
  • How do we know when to check in with ourselves?
  • How do we take an ideographic approach with kids and teens to setting routines?
  • My partner and I have three young children. Should we have the same routine and time for getting the kids to bed (brush teeth, read books, and go to bed)? Does having this type of structure really help?
  • When you feel like you’re so busy that you don’t have time for self-care or to start a routine, how do you suggest people go about starting a new routine without having to sacrifice work, family, or sleep?
  • What is a realistic way to transition from several hours of gaming a day to only one hour a day (for example) in order to focus on the remote school day?
  • Kids used to have so much structure, and now all of that has disappeared for those learning remotely or through a hybrid model. Any suggestions around establishing routines for parents? How do we help kids manage this uncertainty?
  • As a clinician, the idea of daily routines is new to some of our patients. How would you help parents to understand the value of routines for their child?
  • What is the best way to track on progress? It seems like some people use a calendar while others use journals of all kinds. Does this kind of tracking actually work in holding us accountable?
  • As a clinician working with mostly single parent households headed by single mothers, they often tell me that they do not feel like they have enough support to have a routine, or enough bandwidth. Do you have any suggestions for this?
  • I’m a newly single parent, empty nester, with my only child now away at college. I’ve been vacillating between ‘Wow, all this free time’ and ‘Wow, all this free time.’ I enjoy routines, though they all went out the window. Any insight about this stage of life?
  • Any tips on establishing a routine for adults to get to bed at a healthy time, for adults with no children, who can’t seem to break away from doing one more thing—including screen time even though they are exhausted. I feel like a child who resists bedtime, but I am an adult who is fully knowledgeable about this unhealthy behavior.
  • For middle school children, what is a suggested routine for getting them off their phones when they are so attached during this time of physical distancing. I feel like they become stressed when they are detached from their phones and could use some guidelines for starting a new routine. I often hear, “But my friends get to keep their phones all day and night.” Should I reach out to other families and see if we can make an agreement?
  • I have a very difficult time implementing weekly/daily chores for my teenagers. We start something but never seem to get it to stick for more than a few weeks. One of them is also very resistant to being told what to do. Any suggestions for how to get us past the honeymoon phase?

About Dr. Coyne

Lisa W. Coyne, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School, and is a senior clinical consultant at the Child and Adolescent OCD Institute (OCDI Jr.) at McLean Hospital.

Dr. Coyne has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters on anxiety, OCD, and parenting. She is the author of “The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years,” a book for parents of young children.

Recent books by Dr. Coyne:

Learn more about Dr. Coyne.

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