With summer ending, it’s time to get back into a routine. No more lazy mornings when getting dressed is an option, and midnight screenings of your favourite flicks will have to wait until the weekend. It’s a new school year in Barcelona, a fresh start, and as a family you need to find your rhythm.
How strict should you be about a routine?
Many of Barcelona’s foreign residents maintain that strict schedules don’t work in a city where the average person eats dinner between 9pm and 10.30pm. In general, they feel that regulating their day causes more problems than it solves.
Everyone has a different opinion and lifestyle. Actress Kate Winslet put it simply: “I love the routine. I love getting up in the morning and making breakfast and packing lunches and doing the school run. Those things are really important to me. Because I think that those small but key moments are crucial for a kid.”
Annie, who has a PhD in parenting, believes that putting a baby or a small child on a schedule is a way of achieving short-term goals, with regards to his or her behaviour. That being said, these parent-led schedules (feeding times, sleep times, play times, etc.), and the inadvertent over-scheduling of older children (after-school activities, sports, time with grandparents, French tutors, etc.) can have long-term consequences. An overscheduled life can stifle creativity and children’s sense of self. It can make kids inflexible, and can actually get in the way of spending quality time together as a family. Not to mention, it can be incredibly stressful for parents to juggle their kids’ packed schedules with their own full-time jobs.
On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine total improvisation descending into chaos. The key to a balanced routine seems to be staying organised but not overly precise. A family calendar can help you keep track of important events and assess the impact of last-minute plan changes. Having a visual, like a calendar hanging on the fridge, makes it easy to see when everyone is free to have a spontaneous game night or family dinner at home, as well.
What should your family regulate?
Most parents agree that bedtimes are one thing that they should control. The time that children go to bed isn’t as important as the amount of sleep they get, however. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that while a toddler may need as many as 13 hours of sleep a day, children aged 10 or 11 only need 10 hours, and once they near adulthood, they can manage with eight. Receiving less than this amount can have negative consequences on a child’s development.
According to a recent study covered in The Guardian by scientists at University College London, the lack of a sleep schedule could impair early development by disrupting the body clock. It can also result in sleep deprivation, which affects the brain’s ability to remember and learn new information. Therefore, setting an arranged bedtime for your kids and sticking to it, despite all manner of complaints and tantrums, is your way of looking out for their general well-being.
Who gets to decide the schedule?
When it comes to scheduling sports and other extra-curricular activities, let your child have a say in what he or she signs up for. Don’t push children into something they don’t enjoy, or force children to take on more than they can handle. In The Guardian, psychologist Oliver James said that if children are to grow up to be emotionally healthy, exceptional achievers, their enthusiasm for a certain activity must be authentic. Studies have shown that children are more likely to succeed in a pursuit when they follow their passion and enjoy the activity. For example, famous chess champions the Polgár sisters were taught from an early age to see the game as fun; they went on to have enormous success in the sport—Judit Polgar was the youngest ever grandmaster at age 15.
It’s also worth considering what you can teach your child. Instead of sending them to swim lessons, why don’t you show them the different strokes as a way to spend time with them in a different environment. If they want to learn to play the ukulele but you don’t know how, consider taking classes together.
Finally, don’t forget to leave room in your family schedule for yourself. It’s all too easy to get bogged down with being the designated driver, cheerleader or chef once the kids are back in school, but you deserve to plan things you enjoy too. Work out a time for yoga classes, coffee with a friend, or that morning run you need to feel healthy and alert the rest of the day. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better able to take care of your loved ones.