Prof. Jess Haines

With school closures and lockdowns causing upheaval in the lives of many Canadian families, which routines should families try to hang onto and which are okay to let go?

The University of Guelph has an expert who can offer comment.

Prof. Jess Haines is an associate professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition and the co-director of the Guelph Family Health Study, which tests ways to help families with young children develop healthy eating, sleep, screen time and exercise routines. Haines suggests three areas for families to try maintaining routines.


Not only are regular bedtime routines important for kids to get good sleep, Haines said, but early bedtimes allow parents to have some important alone time in the evening.

Daily exercise  

With many fields and recreational areas closed, it can be challenging to find ways to be active. But Haines said even walks around the neighbourhood or dance parties in the kitchen can be great ways to get bodies moving.

Family dinner 

Family dinners are a predictable way for kids to end their day, Haines said. What’s more, they are a good time to check in and see how everyone is doing emotionally during this challenging time.

One to let go

One routine that Haines said families can probably relax is screen time. She said many parents are trying to get their own work done and manage their kids’ home schooling along with managing their own personal needs.

“It’s difficult to do all these tasks and roles while trying to limit our kids’ screen time every day,” she said.

As long as the extra screen time balances with screen-free family time, she said it’s okay to let the kids watch more TV or play on devices a little longer than normal. She advised parents to be kind to themselves and accept that not everyone can meet their healthy family goals during this period.

“Once this outbreak passes – and it will pass – we’ ll have time to get back to our ideal routines.”

Haines is available for interviews.


Prof. Jess Haines