If your teen has recently gone through treatment for an addiction or dependency, you might already know that having a good routine is important for his or her recovery. As a parent, it’s up to you to help your teen create and stick to a solid routine. This can be easier said than done. Read on for information on why such routines are an important component to the recovery process as well as tips on how to create a routine with your teenager.
Why Is a Routine Important?
During the active phase of the addiction, your teen likely created a routine that revolved around the object of the addiction. Now that they are not using the substance anymore, the whole structure of their day and even of their life has changed. Having a set routine to depend on will give your teen the ability to just do “the next thing,” rather than always have to make decisions on what to do next.
Developing a routine will also help your teen prioritize his or her activities and do what’s most important to them. While they were entrenched in the addiction, your teen likely neglected things like family relationships, friends, extracurricular activities, and his or her grades. Creating a routine will help your teenager get back into the swing of his or her normal life before the addiction. It will also be a source of comfort when life gets difficult; sticking to a routine is often comforting in itself.
Example of a Daily Routine for Teens
For most teens, the weekday routine looks about the same. Wake up at a certain time, go to school, go to sports practice (or the after-school activity of choice), come home to eat dinner, do homework, relax, and go to bed. Some teens will have part-time jobs, volunteer activities, or medical appointments. Your teen might have counseling or support group meetings.
On the weekends, however, it can be more difficult for your teen to create a routine. The people he or she used to associate with might not be good choices to hang out with now that drugs and alcohol are not options. The activities they once enjoyed are also mostly off the table. A routine for a weekend day might include the following activities:
- waking up
- enjoying breakfast with the family
- running errands
- going to the gym
- meeting friends or family members for lunch
- going to work
- having dinner
- working on a hobby or a school project before bed
Potential Problems With Routines
As with anything else, depending too much on a routine can become problematic in some cases. Your teen has already battled an addiction, so it’s possible that they will become overly dependent on the routine. He or she might become too rigid and not willing to try new things or meet new people because they don’t fit into the routine. If your child has ADHD, autism, or another type of mental health condition, they might be more likely to act out and get very frustrated if the routine is disrupted. Also, it’s important for your teen to learn how to go with the flow at times; adherence to a strict routine can impede that and make learning time management techniques more difficult.
Your teen might also choose destructive behaviors, such as developing disordered eating or spending too much time on video games or other hobbies. They might be bored a good portion of the time, particularly in the beginning when they are not yet used to the routine and might not have filled their time adequately.
How to Help Your Teen Create a Routine
It’s likely that your adolescent won’t know where to start when it comes time to create a routine. As his or her parent, you’re in the position to help them begin to prioritize their time. Here are a few ways in which you can help your teen develop a routine.
Step 1: First, have your teen write down what they are already doing at certain times. For example, your teen might sleep from 10 to 6, leave for school at 6:45, and attend school from 7:15 to 2:00. This leaves only 8 hours per day to plan during the week. On weekends, there might be certain obligations like sports practice or a weekend job. Account for that in a planner.
Step 2: Next, write down a list of items that need to get done. Sports practice, grocery shopping, and time for chores might be included. You will probably need to make some suggestions and reminders, and you might find it helpful to commit to a family outing on Saturday afternoons or a big breakfast eaten together on Sunday mornings. Once those activities are penciled in, ask your teen what else they might like to do. Start a garden? Volunteer at a local animal shelter? Take an art class at the local rec center? Before long, many of your teen’s hours will be filled in.
Step 3: Suggest “free time” activities, too, such as reading, surfing the Internet, and inviting a friend over so your teen has some things to do when there’s nothing scheduled. Make sure there’s some down time each day for relaxation.
Signs That Your Teen Needs More Help
Sticking to a routine will help your teen learn how to spend his or her time in a healthy, productive way. It’s still important to be vigilant for signs of a relapse when it comes to the addiction. You should also be aware of the signs of depression and anxiety, both of which might make their appearance during the recovery process.
It’s best if your teen continues with counseling and support group meetings for several months or years after battling an addiction. His or her therapists will be watching for signs of trouble, but because you live in the same house and know your teen better than anyone else, you might be the first to notice troublesome signs. Don’t hesitate to talk to your teen’s counselors about your concerns.
Supporting a teen who has gone through recovery for an addiction can be overwhelming, so don’t hesitate to seek counseling and a support group for yourself and other household members. Also, you might want to create a routine for yourself to follow in addition to the one you help your teenager stick to. It will set a great example for your teen and might relieve your stress, too.