Wondering how to achieve household harmony during the busy days of the school year, with parents trying to balance family life, work and personal time, and the kids trying to juggle schoolwork, activities and other interests?
Although every family is different, all families can benefit from having an organized school (and work) routine. Here are some tips for creating an oasis of orderliness:
The morning scramble. Between children leaving for school in a flurry of flying backpacks and parents racing out the door to work, having a few simple routines can save time and nerves.
• Plan breakfasts that are quick and nutritious, such as toasted whole-wheat bread with nut butter, yogurt mixed with fruit, a hard-boiled egg, or granola (make your own and store it in the fridge for up to a week).
• Pack lunches the night before. Store sandwich bags, plastic containers and lunch boxes in an area of the kitchen that you use as your “get lunch ready” work station. Don’t forget to restock supplies regularly.
• Lay out the kids’ school clothes the night before. If they’re old enough, have them do this themselves. Evening is also the best time to have kids load their backpacks with the school supplies they need for the next day.
• Keep car and house keys in an assigned spot. Designate a hook, bowl, basket or other place that’s in easy view. Place keys there every time you enter the house, so that they’ll be there when you’re ready to exit.
The evening rush. Between parents working long hours and kids caught up in after-school activities, dinnertime maybe the first opportunity for family members to reconnect. Social scientists say it’s an institution well worth preserving. Studies have connected eating dinner together as a family with lower obesity rates for children, better grades and enhanced language skills.
• At the family dinner table, do a retrospective of the school day. Ask the kids what new things they learned, what their teachers are like, and what homework assignments they need to complete that evening.
• Present ideas for discussion, such as what’s in the news, favorite family memories, or possible destinations for summer vacation.
• Insist that everyone turn off smart phones so that nothing interferes with dinner. Also, don’t leave the TV playing in the background. Keep family time sacred.
• Have the whole family pitch in with the dinner cleanup to instill a sense of teamwork.
After dessert. Check the status of your children’s homework. On your computer, or on a sheet of paper, set up a shared calendar for the family, noting everyone’s schedules and appointments, as well as reminders about upcoming school events, birthdays and holidays.
Set curfews for each child, making sure that the time to “clock in” is age appropriate and enforced fairly. The kids will build a sense of responsibility and you’ll lessen the stress of the school day frenzy.
What’s your secret to keeping an orderly household? Share your tips with us in the “Comments” section below.