Having a predictable routine (as much as is possible when you are parenting a child with medical complexity…) is optimal because it will help you to provide care that is:
Thinking about your daily routine offers you the valuable opportunity to organize activities and tasks in a way that best meets the needs of your child, you, and your family. In short, having a predictable routine can increase joy and decrease stress for you, your family and your child.
You will probably have to try out a few different routines to find the one that fits you, your child and your family the best. Remember also, every routine needs to be adapted when the tasks required or other circumstances change (like the arrival of a new baby or the start of school).
Once you have an acceptable routine for the day, then consider the week and the month. A paper or online calendar can be very helpful to keep your appointments and tasks clearly in view. Nowadays there are many great online calendar tools that allow you to share and view the schedules of several family members. Many online calendars also allow you to schedule reminders, which arrive in the form of an email or text (for example, refill medication). Colour coding for each family member (or by type of task eg, healthcare visits, therapy sessions, etc) can help you quickly identify tasks. Many programs allow you to send reminders in the form of an alarm, text or message.
If you are not comfortable with an online calendar, you can always use a paper calendar, with colour coding, post-its, etc to show the priority tasks by day, week and month. The only problem with this method is that little bits of paper can easily get lost. You may wish to invest in a few hours with an expert to help you learn how to use an online calendar (or ask teenagers in your vicinity – most schools teach students to use calendars like this).
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Consider your existing family routines – sleeping, eating, working, playing, etc.
- Consider the care that your child needs and the timing of the care – is there flexibility with the timing? What are the priority tasks that must be done? What is best for your child? What is best for the rest of the family? What can be facilitated by additional caregivers? What tasks could you delegate to someone else (for example, laundry, shopping, housecleaning, cleaning equipment)? Which tasks do you prefer to do yourself?
- Jot down a rough schedule for the day (use pencil!).
- Imagine a day from start to finish and consider moving tasks around to reduce wasted time between tasks or unnecessary extra work. The best way to find out what does NOT work is to try out a routine – if you are feeling frazzled or your child’s comfort is not optimized then it is time to get the pencil out again.
- Consider solutions to “problem spots” in the day, or times when there are naturally many high priority tasks – morning rush is a good example – usually everyone is getting up and getting ready for the day ahead. Prepare in advance for these problem spots as much as possible. For example, do as much breakfast preparation (and lunches, school bags, etc) the night before. Have clothing set out the night before. If possible, consider bathing your child at night – this can also be a soothing bedtime routine as well as freeing up valuable time in the morning. A volunteer or paid caregiver may be able to assist you and your family during peak times. Talk with your child’s healthcare team to see what options exist in your region.
- Build in some flex time – try not to schedule so tightly that you cannot breathe.
- Develop a safety net- no matter how perfect your routine becomes, there is sure to be something that disrupts it (that’s life). Be prepared by having a contingency plan for these situations. Your safety net may consist of family, friends or other local resources.
- Make time for joy, however this looks for you and your family. It is the most important thing, after all.