When your child is very young, your schedule may become your child’s schedule: If you need to go to the store after work, for example, your son or daughter goes with you. When your child enters the pre-teen stage, however, your schedules will probably head down different paths as your child takes part in a growing number of activities such as birthday parties, basketball practices, school plays and drum lessons.
Suddenly, the roles have reversed. Often, your pre-teen’s schedule is now your schedule.
Adjusting can sometimes be difficult, but there are many ways to make organizing your pre-teen’s schedule and the family schedule a little easier. Here are several:
Create a family calendar. If your family is tech savvy, you could use a digital calendar; if it’s not, a paper calendar or chalk-board calendar will work just fine. Set aside some time with your family to discuss the calendar concept and how the calendar should be used. Can anyone update it or will only one person update it? Should updates be daily or weekly? Will agreed-upon abbreviations be used? Once that all of you are in agreement, stick to the plan for a week or two and then make any necessary adjustments.
Use color codes. Consider color-coding each family member’s activities to allow everybody to easily spot who will be where and when, who needs to be dropped off at the activity and then picked up, and who might be able to help out if needed. Whether you use a color system such as this or develop your own system as time goes by, assigning colors for certain kinds of information can be helpful and make scheduling easier.
Set a weekly day and time to plan. Because time has a tendency to fly by when we’re busy, it’s sometimes easy to forget to update the family calendar or to postpone doing so until later. One solution is to set aside a day and time each week for 15 to 30 minutes of family planning and calendar updating, which will facilitate meal planning and provide time to make sure that everyone in your family is on the same page for the coming week.
Don’t over-commit, and do say “no” when you should. Does your child need to be on the volleyball, swim, water polo and soccer teams all at once? Probably not. Make sure that there’s always time for your child (and you) to relax and recover from a busy schedule, as well as to spend time with family and friends. As your kids grow older, they will have more and more opportunities to participate in various activities and events, so it’s important to remember that it’s OK to say “no” when you find it prudent or necessary – whether for logistical, financial or family reasons.
Share errands and chauffeuring with a friend. Because you can’t be in multiple places all at once, it can be incredibly helpful to share errands and the chauffeuring of pre-teens with a friend. For example, maybe you could drop off your kids and her kids at school in the morning, and then your friend could pick them up and drop them off at soccer practice in the afternoon. When possible, sharing and trading tasks with someone else can help free up needed time for each of you, whether for work reasons or for your own activities and those of other family members.