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At the start of the 2020-21 school year, we see displays of face masks alongside the traditional school supplies of notebooks, pens and pencils. Whether your student is a preschooler or college student, it is quite likely going back to school looks at least a little different this year.

With many different combinations of in-person, e-learning, and hybrids, juggling multiple schedules can be a challenge. Add in your own work schedule(s) and day-to-day life can feel like nothing short of a three-ring circus. As change and uncertainty are known to heighten stress and anxiety, it is critical to establish as much routine as possible as your students return to school.

In addition to helping better manage stress and anxiety, practicing routine during unpredictable times has been shown to improve focus, organization and productivity. While you may cringe at the thought of routine, it is an important component of taking care of your health physically, mentally and emotionally.

Start simple by establishing family wake-up, bedtime and meal times. These simple acts practiced on a regular basis activate the parasympathetic nervous system, known as rest and digest. With adherence to routine, your family will feel more grounded, organized and less stressed.

Other important supports to include in your schedule are physical activity, play and family time. You might go for a combo here and take a family walk or bike ride after everyone logs off. If your family is spending more time than usual cooped up together, perhaps play time can be solo, providing everyone with some much needed alone time. Every family’s needs are unique, so being flexible and creative is of utmost importance.

Creating routine and sticking to it takes time and effort. Be prepared to give yourself some slack when dinner isn’t on the table at the exact planned time. Don’t stress yourself out if you stray from your routine. Let weekends be a time of greater ease. A good rule of thumb when creating new habits is the 70 percent rule – if you are adhering to your plan 70 percent of the time, you are doing a fantastic job!