The leisure of the summer season is nearing its end, and the back-to-school crunch is bearing down. You've just entered a real-life episode of the TV show Survivor! Adjusting to the new schedule challenges you to rally your tribe (family) and travel to uncharted territories (school, work) while trying to stay sane until you collapse by the fire (on the couch) at sunset.
The key to winning this contest is to have a solid game plan — in this case, a family schedule. Creating one can make your life easier by freeing your everyday thoughts from micromanagement to the bigger picture. Instead of focusing on each grocery run and errand, you'll be able to plan vacations and play with the kids. Follow these tactics to create a schedule that works for you:
- Hang a calendar . . . or two. While a family-focused one is best (it can include activity stickers and plenty of space for writing), any calendar is better than none. If your kids are old enough, hang an additional calendar next to the family's and encourage them to help keep track of their own time. Meet as a group every Sunday or Monday and discuss what's on tap for the upcoming week. Tip: Assign each family member a special color and color-code your calendars.
- Consider your commitments. Before you agree to attend another business dinner or let your daughter sign up for the travel soccer team, take a look at how your decision might affect the whole family. Commitments that keep you away from home at night or on the move every weekend might not be a good fit. If you need to, say no — with confidence. In the end, you're not aiming to please the rest of the world; you're raising a happy, healthy family.
- Set limits. When it comes to time management, your child will learn good habits when you set a good example. Limit extracurricular activities (yours, too) to one or two per week per person, and try to coordinate the times and locations if possible. Hold family meetings to discuss why it's important not to go overboard with commitments. Grown-ups and kids need time to relax and just be. If it's impossible to avoid adding a few more activities than is ideal, use every resource available to make your day run smoothly. A reliable carpool, quick dinner suggestions, and a trustworthy babysitter can all help.
- Know your family. You may find yourself in a pickle deciding between piano and soccer, but don't overlook the obvious. Tune in to your child's special interests and pursue only those you know he'll be reasonably self-motivated to practice for and attend. You can experiment with other interests through local events and one-time classes. Once you've got it set, take pride in your arrangement; it's a reflection of who your family is, what you love, and your willingness to work together.
- Be flexible. Don't expect your family schedule to work perfectly. This doesn't mean it's okay to skip a dance lesson or doctor appointment just because your child isn't in the mood, but it's okya to switch things around a little for something important, like a grandparent's birthday dinner. Try to remain organized, but not rigid.
Keep in mind that the family schedule is for everyone's use, not just yours. You're all in it together, and you have to cooperate to make it out alive — or sane, at least. Enjoy the journey!