By Jennifer Ratcliffe | Gulf Coast Moms Blog
After a summer of late nights, lax routines and counting swimming as a bath, making a plan to manage the chaos that comes with the school year can be more than a bit overwhelming.
How do you balance it all when you want to spend more time with your family but have kids and parents going in all directions? After coming to terms with the fact that Super Woman is indeed dead (tip: You really can’t do it all) here are some ways I’ve found to rock my role as our family’s chaos coordinator.
Setting priorities for activities and schedules is one of the most fundamental ways to strike a balance within a family unit. Think about the main goals for your family as a whole, as well as goals for each individual child.
In our family, we sit down at the end of each school year and evaluate what went well and what didn’t (and boy, have we had some things that have bombed!). We talk about how the past year’s activities have added to, or taken away from, personal goals and our overall goals as a family.
In doing this, we’ve discovered that a certain child does much better when her activities are clustered and she has more free time during the week. Another child does better in having smaller blocks of time scheduled for activities daily. Yet another child does better, and is much happier, with fewer activities overall.
THE FAMILY CALENDAR
In our family, we have landed on a whiteboard calendar system in a central location and an individual paper planner (with pockets in the back for all those forms that come home) for me. The whiteboard calendar gives each family member a broad, at-a-glance overview of the current month, while my individual calendar provides more details and has color coding for each family member.
A calendar with an overview can be a vital tool for planning as you begin to fill in what a weekly schedule looks like in the prioritization phase. This resource becomes key for us as we begin to piece together how things like a daily practice for one child looks like layered with the demands and expectations of working parents and activities of other siblings.
CHORES AND EXPECTATIONS
The bane of almost every mother’s existence is the dreaded chore chart. They are notoriously hard to maintain and enforce, not to mention just plain hard to deal with.
In our home, daily expectations are assumptions that the items listed are the child’s responsibility for that particular day. If the expectations aren’t completed at the end of the day, consequences will happen. If the child blames their schedule, practices, homework or daily load as the reason the expectations were not met, and this happens on a consistent basis, we go back to individual and family priorities and make adjustments as necessary.
This has been the most effective system of enforcing chores and their prioritization in the midst of busy after-school activities and schedules we’ve implemented.
PROTECTING FREE TIME
Set aside time for kids to have the opportunity to be unscheduled, explore their world and have the space to discover their own passions and talents. It’s okay for our children to be bored sometimes, and heavy scheduling of their free time can cause many missed opportunities for exercise of their imagination and internal problem solving.
When reviewing your children’s schedule for the upcoming year, make sure there is space on that whiteboard or calendar for them to be able to have simple free time. This is vitally important, even into the teen years, to decrease their stress levels and help them develop crucial social skills.
Managing the mayhem in your home may seem more than daunting, but with these tips in your toolbox, you can say goodbye to disorganization and over-scheduling this school year.
You have permission to revel in your new role as a chaos coordinator and enjoy the ride with your beautiful, unique family.
Jennifer Ratcliffe is an eighth-generation Mississippian, mother of three, wife to a military pilot and a local blogger who contributes to Gulf Coast Moms Blog.