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We are ALL creatures of habits, and your teen is no different (contrary to what they might think!)

If you ask a teenager what they would prefer to do on the holidays (especially if it is the end of term), most of them will say “nothing”. Or maybe “sleep”. I would bet though, that even in their visions of weeks of unstructured time, they will fall into a routine. And that makes sense – we have a lot of physiological needs we need to meet (eating, sleeping, toileting) and they motivate us to do things at certain times of the day.

But establishing a routine that is more than just responding to our basic needs, is a challenge for most people. My observation of working with families is that we are busier now than we have ever been. This means that flexibility within routines gets harder and harder – there is just less wiggle room. I will leave aside for the moment my thoughts on whether this is a good thing, and how this impacts all of our wellbeing, and focus more on what it looks like to establish a routine and how you might be able to support your teen with that.

– Make sure they take ownership of it (as much as possible). If a routine is contingent on you ‘nagging’ them, then it is likely to fail. Find a compromise between prompts and reminders, and let them make their own decisioncal problems – they are usually the make or break to it working outt you, that can help motivatede for the moment my thoughts on whether this is a good thing, and how this impacts on all of our wellbeing, and focus more on what it looks like to establish a routine and how you might be able to support your teen with that.

– There are a lot of different kinds of routines we need to consider – ‘time of day’ routines (e.g. getting ready in the morning, getting ready for dinner), activity routines (e.g. what I do at my sport training, or completing homework/study)

– Pre-committing to a routine will increase your chances of doing it. If you are in a position where you are asking yourself “do I feel like doing X right now?”, unless it is something you really like, there’s a fair chance you probably don’t feel like it

– Help your teen work out what they are doing in a typical week and start by mapping that out. This is a good starting point for identifying whether their schedule is a problem, but also where the gaps are to be looking at a routine to implement or modify

– Work out what it is they actually want to do. And importantly, WHY they might want to do it. Working towards a future goal can be pretty tough for some people (go to youtube and search “marshmellow experiment” for a cuter version of why), but if you at least have an idea of what it can get you, that can help motivate

– Identify any barriers to actually doing that routine. If they want to go the gym – how are they going to get there/home. Do they have their gear packed in advance so they can grab it and go? Don’t overlook the basic practical problems – they are usually the make or break to it working out

– Make a (reasonable) plan for actually putting the routine in place. They aren’t going to go from no homework to 3hrs a night! Can you use some kind of system to track and reward for getting the routine done?

Regardless of all the good planning and work that you and your teen might do, routines also need to have flexibility and be frequently updated and revised. That is a skill that they are learning, so will likely continue to need help to consider and revisit some of those routines.

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At ConnectEd Counselling and Consultancy, we believe that all families, and the communities they belong to, benefit from a little extra care and support. Whether the problems are big or small, we want to make sure everyone has the chance to feel connected – to themselves, to others and to their community. We offer counselling services to young people and families and have immediate availability. If you need some support, get in touch here: www.connectedcc.com.au

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