The first few weeks of school can be a struggle for everyone in your family. The early wake-up calls, the after-school activities, and the meetings, oh, the meetings, and all you want to do is hit the snooze button on the school day. We’ve all been there. You’ve grown accustomed to your leisurely summer lifestyle, but back-to-school time throws you into a crazy schedule, and it’s a tough adjustment to get back on track.
Although you probably tried your hardest in the weeks before school to get your family into a routine, the real test didn’t come until the actual first day of school. Now your family has to find a way to juggle all of the before and after school chaos, hopefully without rushing or letting anything slip through the cracks.
Before your family comes unraveled and you throw your planner in the trash can, check out a few ways to get your family into an ideal routine.
Keep Your Schedule Manageable
Obviously, there are certain things you have to do every day like make breakfast, brush your teeth and get ready for the day, and send the kids to school. These are non-negotiables and should be the first things incorporated into your routine. Have a time slotted for when you are making and eating breakfast, have an idea of when you should be dressed and ready to go, and have a 5-minute time frame for sending the kids out the door. Once you factor in these essentials, you’ll have a good gauge as to what else you can add to your morning, like exercising, collecting laundry, or paying bills.
Now, you might be optimistic that you’ll have all the time in the world if your kids are at school all day. As tempting as it might be, don’t bog down the schedule right away. You’re going to be in an adjustment period, so hold off on scheduling appointments or coffee dates until you’re in the swing of things. It’s also okay to say “no” to some things. If you aren’t super excited about an activity, or you simply don’t have the time for it, just say no.
Saying no goes for your kids as well. It’s good to be involved, but doing too many things can be a challenge and can cause burnout. And don't worry, saying no to your kids doesn't make you a bad parent. Just talk to them about your reasoning and tell them why it’s too much. Then they'll have to make a conscious decision about what it is they want to do.
Sync Up a Family Calendar
Once everyone in your family has a set schedule, put every activity into one master calendar. A visual calendar can be a beneficial focal point for your family if you keep it in a high traffic area. It’s a great way to get an at-a-glance view of what everyone is doing this month. Love from the Oven put together this neat magnetic whiteboard that is a cute decoration, but also keeps everyone on schedule. Personalize it to your taste and everyone in your family will always know what’s going on.
If your kids are in high school or are old enough to have smartphones, consider keeping a family calendar that you can all add to. Having a calendar on your phone is the fastest way to jot down an appointment, plus it keeps everyone in the loop even if you haven’t seen each other. Google calendar is a great and free tool that your family can use if you have a Gmail account.
For the younger kids who are just learning how to get into a routine, an after school activity clock might come in handy. You can customize this clock with all of the activities your kids have to do, including doing their homework and chores. Have fun with it and make it your own and your kids will be on a schedule in no time!
Run Errands Efficiently
Ever had a week where you have to go to the grocery store multiple times because you forgot something? It happens to everyone. You have little time as it is, don’t spend it all going to the grocery store. Instead, take your time when you’re making your list and ensure you have food for all your meals this week. Tip: it’s both cost and time effective to purchase only the items you need to make certain recipes for the week. Keep an inventory sheet of items you always have on hand so you can pick these up too.
Once you’ve made your comprehensive list and clipped coupons, pick a day that works best for your schedule to go to the store. If you want to prep meals for the week, go on Sunday and do all your prep when you get home. If you do your shopping at multiple stores, allow enough time in your schedule to get it all done in one trip. Make the most of these trips and piggyback picking up dry cleaning or filling up the car.
Make Time for Family Dinner
Through all the chaos that occurs during any given week, eating dinner together will help ground your family. It can be easy when you’re faced with a busy schedule to pick up fast food and call it good. But if you take some time to plan out your meals, your family will keep on a schedule and will be eating healthier.
You might be thinking that cooking every night of the week sounds like a pain, but it doesn’t have to be! If you’re not already, become fast friends with your crockpot. It’s the easiest way to make a tasty meal with practically zero work. You can even prep these meals by putting all of the ingredients in a zip top bag and keeping them in the freezer until you dump them in the crockpot. Here are some crockpot recipes to add to your arsenal.
Get Ready for Tomorrow Tonight
Most of the time when mornings turn from tranquil to chaotic it’s because you and your kids are trying to do too much. Instead of rushing around in the morning to fill lunch boxes, pack backpacks, and pick out outfits, spend 15 minutes of your night to do it all and then you can rest easily.
- Packing lunch. You’re going to have to clean up the kitchen after dinner, take that time to pack lunches too. That way, you’re lessening your clean up time, plus you can give the kids leftovers from dinner in a thermos for an awesome lunch surprise.
- Zipping up backpacks. It’s a good idea to dump out backpacks daily. Your kids will stay organized and on top of their homework, and there won’t be any more lost papers (one can dream). Once they’ve finished their homework, have your kids zip up their backpacks and set them by the door for an easy departure in the morning.
- Picking out outfits. Regardless of whether your kids wear school uniforms or not, make the morning easy by picking out clothes the night before. They can even choose outfits for the full week and put them in hanging cubbies in their closet. That way there’s no wardrobe stress all week.
If you follow these three ideas, the morning will (hopefully) be easy. All they’ll have to do is wash up and eat a tasty breakfast before heading for the bus or piling in the car.
Don’t underestimate the time it will take to get into a routine, and don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t come together right away. Implement some, or all of these ideas, give your family time to adjust, and you’ll be back in the swing of things in a few weeks.
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