Breaking News
More () »

How to establish a strong after-school routine early in the school year

Those can be the trickiest routines of the day to set up and maintain for many reasons.

HARTFORD, Conn. — It's important to establish bedtime routines and morning routines for students, but so are after-school routines, and they're a trickier subject for many reasons, one of which is that parents are often busy working and doing other things.

So, while having some after-school structure is good, one expert said the first thing parents should do is give themselves and their kids a little grace.

 “Dear parents, give yourself some room and gratitude and space to go 'OK, we'll do the best of what we can do,' but I think structure is great,” said Dr. Rob Keder, a Developmental Pediatrician at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.

Both he and Dr. Mahreen Raza, the Director of Child and Adolescent Services at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, said that structure is good.  However, they said different kids need different amounts, and all kids need some free time after a highly structured school day.

 “Having time that's just unstructured allows kids to tap into creativity, that allows them to understand themselves,” said Dr. Keder.

“They have to decompress,” said Dr. Raza, “I mean, after work, we also decompress so they need to decompress and let them be free for half an hour to one hour.”

Sign up for the FOX61 newsletters: Morning Forecast, Morning Headlines, Evening Headlines

 That’s not to say that there can’t be a quick organizing routine as soon as they get in the door— like putting shoes and backpacks away. Dr. Keder said visuals can help with that.

 “With all kids, having something visual is helpful for kids who are neurodivergent, it's extremely helpful,” said Dr. Keder, “so if you have a routine, put it out on the refrigerator in the kitchen or in the child's bedroom.”

Be aware, though, that kids with ADHD or sensory processing disorders might need more downtime right off the bat.

“But for those kids, they are really working hard, so when they come home at the end of the day, it’s like they’ve been running a marathon,” Dr. Keder said.

“On top of that, if you have a child that takes a stimulant medication, that's probably starting to wear off in the afternoon too,” he said.

So, what about that unstructured time? It can be whatever holds a child’s interest - even some screen time to a limited extent - but both doctors said some physical activity is great, and for younger kids, you can even add some routine to that unstructured time.

 “Routine means some consistency about having them involved in a sport, physical activities, reading, taking them maybe to library or park or engaging them in a sport. I think for kindergarteners, this would be enough,” said Dr. Raza.

Eventually, when it’s time to get back to homework, that transition can be hard, but both doctors said you don’t have to just jump into it.

“They have to start a routine doesn't mean that they have to sit and start doing their homework,” said Dr. Raza.

 Rather, set a pre-homework routine to help them get back in the learning mindset.

 “So, starting that like routine and mantra of like, ‘I'm going to put my backpack together, I’m going to get my homework space organized, I’m going to intentionally go … put my phone here so I can focus on doing homework, and then I can get up and go check it, which will give me a physical break,” said Dr. Keder.

Tim Lammers is an anchor at FOX61 News. He can be reached at Tlammers@fox61.com. Follow him on FacebookX, and Instagram.

Have a story idea or something on your mind you want to share? We want to hear from you! Email us at newstips@fox61.com



Download the FOX61 News APP

iTunes: Click here to download

Google Play: Click here to download

Stream Live on ROKU: Add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching FOX61.

Steam Live on FIRE TV: Search ‘FOX61’ and click ‘Get’ to download.



Before You Leave, Check This Out