Managing in the Pandemic Part 2: Structure and Routines that Reduce Anxiety and Increase Performance


Reduce anxiety and stress with consistent routines and expectations for our kids .  Everyone does better with predictability and routine.  There is greater compliance if everyone knows exactly what to expect.  And, those initial shifts that create a new habit are kind of like knocking over the first domino.  They tend to start a chain reaction that helps other good habits take hold.  Studies have documented that families who habitually eat dinner toge
ther seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades, greater emotional control and more confidence.  Making your bed every morning is correlated with higher productivity.  Of course, it’s not the dinner or the bed making, but the chain reaction started by those habits.  So in this time of working at home and distance learning, structure and routine is critical.

Create Regular Routines

  • Weekday routine – Make each weekday as much like a regular school day as possible
  • Morning routine Put on some upbeat music in the house, like Pherrell’s song “Happy” to get everyone going. Have a little exercise, routine and specific morning chores.  Kids should get dressed for school.  Have some parameters around that – no PJs or sweats for school.

Create a visual schedule that is large and that everyone can see that shows your Morning routine, School/Breaks, Chores and Fun stuff after… including some unstructured playtime without screens.

Sleep and Bedtime Routine

Everybody sleeps, so we don’t always stop to consider just how important it is to mental and physical health and academic and social success. Sleep is a complex function that affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body including the brain, heart, lungs, metabolism, mood, and immune system. Sleep is the time when a lot of the learning that happens during the day gets processed and set into memory.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 6 – 12 get at least 9 hours of sleep. Teens need 8 – 10 hours and adults need 7 – 9.

Here are some things you can do to help yourself and your family get the sleep they need:

  • Create a bedtime routine, starting with cutting off screen time 1 hour before bedtime.   The blue light produced by devices reduces melatonin production – the natural chemical that causes us to get sleepy. In addition, screen time right before bed stimulates the brain and signals the body to stay awake when it should be winding down.
  • Set a schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid caffeine or exercise within a few hours of bedtime because they’re also stimulating.
  • Keep the temperature below 70 degrees.  The body heating up can cause wakefulness.

Exercise Routine

Start an exercise routine Research shows that physical movement can enhance clarity, attention, and readiness for learning.  Physical movement increases oxygen flow to the brain, improving alertness, concentration, and receptivity.  

Adding movement or physical action to a learning activity increases recall.  I remember when my daughter was in college, she would study for tests on the elliptical at the gym and found that when she did that, she learned the information more quickly and retained it better.

Teach the “Why”

Educate your children and students about these routines.  They do better when they know the why! One of the positive outcomes of this time may be that students have learned some important life skills.

Routine and structure is important for all of us, but particularly important for our students struggling with school or learning.  Kids are sensitive to the feelings and anxieties of the adults around them.  Structure and routine adds peace to the home and security and predictability for our learning or behaviorally-challenged students.

If you would like a free consultation to talk with someone about your child, call us at 877-774-0444 or sign up on the front page of our website:

If you’re a parent of a struggling student in need of a safe place to ask questions and get support and resources, check out our private Facebook group SLCMom Squad.

Jill Stowell

Founder Stowell Learning Centers

Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities

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