The Power of Routines During Sheltering in Place

May 2, 2020 Barbie Wong

Routines can be powerfully anchoring during these stressful times. This past month, my family has developed new weekly routines that have helped us stay grounded and connected.

Do you feel like your kids are getting way too much screen time and that every day is the same thing over and over again? Is the uncertainty in the world driving you and your family crazy? I want to share with you the power of routines and how they can help you and your family find more peace, connection, and meaning during these times. 

Before sheltering in place, our lives were highly routine. Every day, our kids went to school, saw the same people and followed a consistent schedule. Weekly activities such as soccer practice, piano lessons, and yoga classes occurred at the same time, at the same place, and with the same people. The world was predictable, dependable and reliable. And that’s what we are all craving right now, especially our kids. And while we can’t–and shouldn’t–provide our kids with happiness at every moment, we can give them this: weekly events they can look forward to and that everyone in the family can enjoy. These events don’t have to be fancy. They just need to happen regularly and you get to decide how it’s done.

When I began our “Fire Pit & Tea” sessions, my motivation was to get my kids off screens for at least an hour a week. I didn’t set my expectations too high, but I also knew that just telling them to reduce their screen time would not be effective. I don’t know about you, but I do not have naturally compliant kids. So I thought about what they would enjoy and asked them, “Remember when we used to sit at our fire pit on Wednesday nights and drink tea? What do you think about that?” They were receptive, so the following Wednesday morning I wrote invitations for the kids inviting them to Fire Pit & Tea that night, and that’s how it began. By the way, my kids ended up bringing out marshmallows to roast so that made it even more attractive.

The reason why this weekly ritual worked for us was because it was easy.

We already had a fire pit and we all like to drink tea. You need to figure out what works for your family. What is easy and within reach?

Our ritual also worked because it was attractive. My kids like gathering in front of the fire pit, drinking tea, and roasting marshmallows. This is why it’s important to get your kids’ input. Ask them what they would enjoy doing together as a family. Maybe you all like to play board games or eat ice cream. Or maybe you like competitive feats of strength or dance parties. Your family is unique, so what works for your family will also be unique.

After a few weeks of Fire Pit and Tea, I asked my kids if they wanted to join me for a “care for your body” night, which we now called Monday Spa Night. On that first night, I did my weekly face mask, one kid painted her nails, and the other kid took a bath. I played slow, soothing music in the background, and we all ended up feeling calm, connected and relaxed. I knew my kids liked these activities, so it worked for us. Plus, it was something I was already doing–my weekly facial mask–so it didn’t take any extra effort on my part. 

In addition to making sure the activity is easy, attractive and that you collaborate with your kids, only add one activity at a time.

You may be very excited when you are done reading this–and I hope you will be–but don’t begin by planning an activity for every single night of the week. You’ll burn yourself out and your kids will run away. Begin with one activity a week, let that become a family routine, and then slowly add other weekly activities.

Currently, my family is enjoying these weekly events:

Monday Spa Night

We each take care of our bodies in some way. This includes doing a facial, taking a bath with scented bath salts, doing manicures or pedicures, and cutting hair. I also put on some relaxing music during this time.

Watch “The Great British Baking Show” on Tuesdays

We love this show because it’s both fun to watch and inspiring for baking. My kids have begun making all sorts of treats since we began watching this show. Plus, I like that we are watching it together, as opposed to each person zoned out on separate screens. We are sharing this experience and enjoy talking about the show throughout the week.

Fire Pit & Tea, Take-out on Wednesdays

Because I teach on Wednesdays, we are now getting take-out for dinner. This is a welcome break for me and a fantastic way to support our local restaurants. After dinner, we sit around the fire pit in our backyard and sip tea. My kids also roast marshmallows and make s’mores.

Food Feast Fridays

Breakfast on Friday mornings comes from a local bakery or cafe. It’s a great way to support local businesses and it gets my teenager up before noon. So far, we have eaten croissant French toast, beignets, fresh fruit smoothies, s’mores donuts and red velvet Nutella donuts.

Wong Family Sundays

Every Sunday evening, we connect with my parents, my sisters and their families via Zoom. Each week we have a different activity planned such as playing Pictionary or showing a recreation of an old photo. It’s a wonderful way to connect regularly with my family now that we can’t see them in person.


Remember, you don’t have to solve all of your kid’s problems or make everything in their life predictable. But you can infuse a sense of regularity and dependability by setting up weekly activities that you all enjoy. It gives everyone something to look forward to every week, and it will bring more peace and connection into your household.

Try this out and let me know how it goes in the comments below. Stay safe and be well!