Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You?


Families have seasons where life is very busy and seasons where life slows down.  My family is no different.  I know that in my own family, sometimes our rhythms flow smoothly, effortlessly … sometimes we have to work at them and give them a lot of attention to hold them into place.

More than one family has found their fine-tuned routine shaken up by a toddler who suddenly gives up afternoon nap time, by after-school piano lessons, or when their child joins a sports team.

Illness.  Moving.  A new job.  A new baby.  A death in the family.  Starting school. 

Life happens. 

Situations change.

I think the best resource parents have, especially when navigating the changes of childhood and family life,  is other parents. I’m so thankful for the people I have in my life who I can share and talk with about raising kids. I talk to other parents and learn what works (or doesn’t work) for them and then do my best to apply what I learn to my family.

So, Let’s Talk

I’ve been talking a lot this month about rhythm and routines, and now I’d like to hear what you have to say.

  • Have you been making any 15 minute changes in your days?
  • Do you find that your kids are aware of and anticipate your routines?
  • How do you adjust when you are in a busy season of life?  In times of crisis?
  • What tips would you give to another parent looking for more rhythm and consistency in their family life?

What works for you?

The comments are open for discussion.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace


  1. I feel like I’m a very consistent person in my everyday routines but boy can that get all jumbled up in a crisis, especially those events that tend to be very emotional. I’m experiencing one of them right now and I’m realizing that for the last 2 days I’ve neglected some things that needed to be addressed. When these things happen and I become conscious of what I’m doing I make a very deliberate move to be more aware of my routines, my family, and I say an extra prayer every day.
    .-= Tina @ Ride On Toys´s last blog ..The Radio Flyer Big Wheel =-.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you are going through an emotional time right now, Tina :-(

      We aren’t in a crisis, but we are in a very busy season of life (husband is working a lot of extra hours, we’re homeschooling, I’m working more) so we’ve been making small changes. My husband, who normally does a lot of the cooking on the weekends and a few weeknights has been taking over the kitchen completely and cooking dinner for us every night to give me time to write and work on the next day’s homeschool. We aren’t going to the library every week, just every three weeks (in time to turns materials back in – on time, hopefully lol) and we really aren’t doing much socially this Spring so that our free time can be spent together as a family.

      An extra prayer every day helps, too!
      .-= Kara´s last blog ..Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? =-.

  2. I’ve actually taken a lot of heat from my family by my unwillingness to change our rythm when “life happens”. I’ve often pushed to keep my kids routines the same – making them the priority over the event – which can cause conflict with other adults around you, but some times it needs to be done. As they get a little older it’s a little easier to adjust their routines. We’ve been known to say NO to family activities, play dates, birthday parties, etc because the timing of the event doesn’t fit in to the timing of our family. We figure there will be other opportunities. We just passed up swim lessons for our 4 year old because the 6pm time didn’t work for us. We’ll just look for other options. It’s a short term sacrifice for sanity!

    When we need to make long term changes – like when naps disappear – we try to make the change fun and try to get the kids involved in making the decision.
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..FPU: Insurance =-.

  3. We are similar, Angie – we say “no” to things that conflict with our routines, too for the most part. You’re right: there will be other activities and opportunities. We don’t want to be one of those families who is so busy every night of the week they never see each other – or who spends every weekend in the car, you know what I mean?
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? =-.

    • I learned the value of putting my kids first from YOU, so you should give yourself a lot of credit for not only how your manage your own family (and their rythms),but how much you inspire others!
      .-= Angela´s last blog ..FPU: Insurance =-.

  4. We are in a busy season of life right now and some aspects of our routines are being changed due to that (see my reply to Tina above) but we’re working hard to keep the things our kids count on in place.

    Bedtime is the same, we like to have a color of the day, we’re getting outside every day.

    It is a struggle, as I’m really tired right now, but I’ve been holding on to my early morning alone time by continuing to get up earlier than the kids, too. I need that time and I think our whole family benefits when I can start the day in a peaceful way … even if that alone time is only 20 minutes, it helps center me.
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? =-.

  5. Tsh had a great post a few days ago about Family Rituals:

    One of her tips is to keep it simple and another is to keep it inexpensive. Both of those things helps to keep the ritual a part of your routine – it is simple to do and doesn’t cost anything (so there isn’t any guilt or worry if you’re in a place where you can’t spend a lot of money or time).

    One of our rituals is a friday night “nest” – movie and game night. It doesn’t cost us anything but our time, especially if watch a movie or play a game we already own (or use our movie rental subscription). We don’t do it every friday, but a few times a month. The kids look forward to it and we do, too. After a really long week, it is nice to know we’ll have that time, no matter what. (even if the Friday nest has to happen on a Saturday or Sunday lol)
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? =-.

  6. Kristina says:

    This has actually been the central parenting issue I’ve been dealing with lately. We seemed to be doing great in the fall, and then between morning sickness and holidays, and NOW daylight savings, I just can’t seem to get my feet back on the ground. We’ve been in an entire season of change, and I can see that it’s having an effect on the kiddos when they don’t know what to expect. I’ve thought of just going at it “cold turkey” and “shocking” us into a routine, but I really think this would set us up for failure and frustration. And since our “season” is about to be extended by a move and a new baby in the next few months, whatever we start towards now, may be thrown off by the next curve ball. Any advice for when it doesn’t seem like things will return to “normal” for a while?

    • Establish a new normal. It sounds like, with all the changes coming, that going to back to the same old same old probably won’t work.
      Start with one thing that is working, get that to be habit, then add in another. The baby will throw it all off, but look to it as an opportunity to find and establish a new normal. Same goes for the new neighbourhood.
      .-= Cheryl Arkison´s last blog ..Scotch and … =-.

    • A new baby? Congratulations! :-)

      A new baby AND a move are big-time life changes … my advice would be to keep it very, very simple. Even happy times can be stressful times. Keep basic rhythms in place (like say a bedtime story every night before bed, singing the same song when setting the table, or taking a walk together – even if just to the mailbox and back) something that can be held in place whether you are in one home or another.

      Before their baby sister was born my two oldest used to talk to my belly and I’d sing a song w/ each of their names in it – including the baby’s … after the baby was born, we continued to talk and sing the same song – it became a treasured part of our rhythm and helped the transition for the oldest two, I think.

      I always try to be extra-gentle with myself when there is a new baby in the house. It is the time I allow myself to use paper plates, let my husband take over the laundry and the library visits, and Sleep, Eating, getting to know the newest person in the family are my focus – those are the basics. The rest will be layered back into our rhythm in due time … somehow it always works out :-)

      Focus on what is essential for your family and the rest will wait. New babies are their OWN routine :-)

      I’ve tried the “cold turkey” approach and it doesn’t work for me. Small, simple changes that occur over time seem to be how I end up with routines that stick in place and that naturally flow.

      Best Wishes!
      .-= Kara´s last blog ..Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? =-.

  7. Kara,

    I have one preschooler and infant, and we are also home schooling, the issue when your kids are always with you and too young to play on their own long enough to give you any free time to catch a breath! My infant is teething and my preschooler is going through clingy phase and while I am taking optimistic approach and taking one day at the time, it does occasionally gets overwhelming. My motto, “this too shall pass”.
    .-= Zengirl @ happy heart and mind´s last blog ..Simplifying your financial life =-.

    • This too shall pass – yes! :-)

      It wasn’t that long ago that I was the mother sitting on the floor nursing a baby, doing a puzzle w/ one hand w/ my toddler and telling a story about the letters of the alphabet to my first grader. I look back now and wonder how I did it – but at the time it just seemed natural and that was what my kids needed.

      Which is not to say it doesn’t get overwhelming, oh it does at times … but that I know it won’t last forever.

      Great thoughts, Zengirl :-)
      .-= Kara´s last blog ..Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? =-.

  8. We have not always been the best at routines – what we do is try to keep things simple – saying “no” to a lot of things. It gives us lots of time to accommodate spontaneous possibilities and keep us sane.

    However, as my kids have gotten older, we’ve had to be more rigorous about routines. Right now we’re trying to keep up our studying Japanese and jiu jitsu together as a family – on top of everything else going on. And we’re finding that having a stricter schedule helps. It especially helps the kids to know that something is simply there – expected to happen. So there is less grumbling or difficult transitions to make.

    It’s similar to how we’ve integrated physical fitness into our lives and made sure we don’t miss it. When it’s scheduled in, we only have to make the decision to do it one time. No more hemming and hawing over whether or not to do something. It’s in the schedule, let’s do it.

  9. I’ve loved the series, particularly for getting me to think rhythm, not necessarily routine.

    This week I’ve managed to be up and ready to go before the rest of the house and I can’t tell you how much that small thing has changed our rhythm. It is relaxed now. I feel like I am more productive, even if it is just about getting everyone going. And I’m less likely to sit around being lazy. Most importantly, I am calmer to start the day and that carries through.

    So maybe you can’t change the family rhythm, but you can change yours and it will have a multiplier effect.
    .-= Cheryl Arkison´s last blog ..Scotch and … =-.

    • Cheryl, I agree – sometimes just making a positive change for myself is enough.

      Making sure that *I* get some morning alone time, get enough rest, eat well … those things affect my attitude and if I can hold myself together, we get through the rough or busy patches of life smoother.

      One of my mentors says she gets up early because she doesn’t like that “shot out of a cannon” feeling in the morning and I SO agree. I’d much rather start the day with peace and quiet and something warm to sip in silence than “Mooooom, I can’t find my socks!” or “He’s touching me” :-) Those moments will come, of course, but I face them with better humor when that isn’t the first sound I hear.

      So glad you’re enjoying this series!
      .-= Kara´s last blog ..Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? =-.

  10. We are in a very busy season right now, as well. We’re a Navy family and my husband was supposed to leave today to go to a school in Connecticut (we’re in Georgia) but didn’t because we’ve had 3 large problems with the house in the past week and (thankfully) he’s fixed them. So, tomorrow he’ll be on the road. The kids and I (6, 4, and 2) are staying here until mid-May and then traveling up the coast to New York to visit family for a few weeks. Once my husband is done with his school we’ll be caravaning from NY to Washington state. Lots of upheaval!

    So, when life is chaotic and doesn’t seem like it’s going to settle for a few months…I make it an adventure. We’re taking 2 weeks to drive the 17 hours it actually takes to get from GA to NY. We’re stopping along the way and seeing things, having down days, and exploring what’s around.

    Normally, though, I try to read my children’s cues for routine and rhythm. We, as the adults, set the schedule, but we listen to what our kids tell us. My husband is famous for saying “when their ears close their eyes are soon to follow.” That’s why we keep a bed time routine that sticks pretty close to the same. Our kids are in bed long before some of their friends…but that’s a priority to us. We put them first, in part, because it makes life so much easier for us!

    Ok, enough going on and on…great post!

  11. Just last week I shook things up here. Spring was springing and I decided a change was needed. I called the kids and told them we would do half our school work at bedtime and the other half in the morning, thus freeing up the second half of the morning for garden work/outside frolic time. We’re back to a normal schedule this week, but those three days were a much needed breath of fresh air.
    .-= Jennifer Jo´s last blog ..Whoopin’ it up =-.

  12. I find that the rhythms of our family are almost always determined by how I adjust to change. If I’m organized and well adjusted so is everyone else. If I can adjust to the ebb and flows of life, so will everyone else. For us this just means that I change what I need to to keep things running smoothly and everyone else kind of follows suit naturally. Like Cheryl, I’ve been waking earlier, walking earlier, showering earlier and feeling more motivated in the morning and that energy feeds my family and gets them going. I’m not sure how long it will last, probably until a new routine is required, but after ten years of parenting I’ve learned that how I respond to change really impacts how everyone else does too.

  13. We have had a few new babies arrive and “disrupt our lives” in the most delightful way – as they do… I keep a pile of favorite picture books handy… We do have a fairly fixed routine and I don’t change it for anything… But when a newborn is hungry (desperately, starving!!!) I have found it better to just sit wherever we are, nurse the baby and read a favorite story, and pick up our routine fifteen minutes later. Of course the best thing to completely toss a routine out the window – is not the laptop (just leave it in another room!!!) it’s the telephone. While you are nursing a newborn, which actually takes two hands, you cannot keep a toddler engaged while you are on the phone and your whole home can fall apart in seconds. If you can’t just leave it to ring without thinking “who is it, what if… what if it’s really important and completely stressing yourself out.” Then turn off the sound – because actually when your life is upside down you need to “be out, out of reach” while you gather yourself. I am loving the comments here!!!

  14. We just had a new baby and now that she is four months old, I feel like we are finally getting back into our routine. In the interum, I tried to keep the basics of bed time the same, to go to our two day time activities every week and to keep my son’s before-school ritual constant. Now we’ve re-integrated outside time after lunch (now that the weather is better) and quiet time with stories and a snack after that. The boys seem to breathe easier when we keep these regular things in our day.

    My boys wake up between 5 and 6am, so I don’t try to wake up before them. In fact, since the baby often doesn’t go down for the night until 12 or 1am, I don’t wake up until 7am most mornings. I find it easier for me, as a night hawk, to get things ready and have some calm time the night before. I just take a few moments to get myself centered before I get out of bed to get breakfast.
    .-= jill´s last blog ..Just For Laughs =-.

  15. We’re finally settling down after a busy fall with a move (that was multi-stepped as we waited for our house to be finished) and starting our oldest in preschool. When everything was up in the air, I too found sticking to as many as our rules and routines as possible was necessary. Throughout, bedtime was 7-7:30 and one story was read before bed, healthy food (I wouldn’t even call them meals at points in this journey) was provided every few hours to keep everyone’s blood sugars from crashing, and Mom and Dad’s Rules Reign. The last one was hard because we spent weeks at family members houses waiting for our new home. With so many adults around, the kids naturally would get confused about who was in charge. We just reminding everyone “Mom and Dad’s Rules Reign.” Since our rules are familiar, it helped our children and us stay sane in this process.

  16. We have had no new major upheavals in my family since my accidental baby was born two years ago (right after I turned 42). However, my five and eight-year olds just started baseball (with completely different schedules) and my two year old is hit or miss with naps these days, so our lives here are pretty hectic! My recommendation is …. SOUP! I make all kinds of soup and freeze it. I also make my own pasta sauce and baked pasta dishes and freeze them too. The slow cooker is also a time-saver in the afternoon! A quickly prepared dinner is my road back to my schedule. Instead of prepping dinner, I can play with my kids in the backyard or finish homework and baths in time for dinner and movie night. And if I have to rush a child off to a 5:30 practice or game, at least I know he or she has something substantial in their tummies!

  17. I have to say I am not one to read parenting books but I rcently bought Simplicity Parenting and it is excellent. It talks about all of the extra stuff in our lives and how we really need to simplify to meet the authentic needs of our children. If there is too much stuff happening, too many things on the agenda, too many toys, books, etc… it can really inhibit our children’s ability to be who they reaaly are. My son thrives on routine while my three daughters are much more willing to go with the flow and adapt to change. But I notice in all of them the safety that they feel when they know what to expect. So I am trying to simplify everything, talk less, listen more, live in the moment and hopefully let each one blossom as slowly and surely when they are good and ready.


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lucy Banta NJ Family, Susan Heid. Susan Heid said: RT @simplekids Let’s Talk: Rhythm and Routines When Life Changes – What Works for You? http://bit.ly/cIHRBe [...]

Share Your Thoughts


5 + 3 =

CommentLuv badge