Making your schedule work for you
By Rachel Kelly
Getting a 5-year-old to put on their socks often feels like negotiating a hostage situation. First you warn them that they’ll be leaving in an hour. Thirty minutes before it’s time to leave, you call out an announcement, “Time to get your socks on!” Ten minutes before go time you start pleading. They respond by showing you their playdough creation. Then you bring them their socks. This upsets them. Finally, you’re in the car, and they’ve forgotten to bring their favorite toy. This is also upsetting. So you promise them all the playdough. The deal is struck, and off you go.
In a busy family, getting anything done usually requires bribery and/or grand larceny. Really though! A family's needs are wide and varied. Having an endless list of “to-dos” just means that you’re out and about, having fun. To help parents and kids get through the day, sometimes it helps to create a family schedule. Even if the kids aren’t old enough to stay up to par with the current times, it helps if parents are at least on the same page. Here are some versatile tips for designing a schedule that works for your family.
First and foremost, it’s important to make that schedule visible to everyone. For parents and older kids, this could mean using a shared calendar app, where each family member can add on activities as well as see other activities planned. For little ones, this could be something simple like a sticker chart. Each part of the daily schedule that they participate in gets them a sticker, with small prizes at the end of the week. If you need something that can be seen throughout the day, by anyone who passes by, you could put in something big and permanent—like a chalkboard in the kitchen or hallway, where you list the day with adjoining meals and activities. Whatever it is, make it visible. Make it accessible. Make it interactive. In this way, everyone is heard.
Making a very interactive and dynamic schedule allows for needs to be consolidated. When everyone knows where they need to go, and they can see where everyone else is going, they can plan their activities around what is already being done. If one parent is going to work, they might drop off the kiddos to school. If another parent needs to hedge in a workout, they might plan to do that at the same time that the kids have swim practice. If the kids have swim practice, make sure they go at the same time. Or if one has swim, make sure that the other has their sport close by near the same time. Mastering the art of consolidating needs often means that everyone is happy and busy at the same time, leaving more room for the in-between. Of course, this also means that you may have to say no to what doesn’t fit into what your family deems a priority. As you develop a family schedule, keep those family goals in mind. Consolidate them. Then don’t be afraid to say no to what doesn’t fit into those goals. No sense in killing yourself over what you don’t care about.
Third, and last, there’s the issue of rest—which should be a part of every family schedule. Rest is essential to everyone’s survival, even for kids who seem to have endless energy. The reality is that unless a family rests together, there will always be one person (you) who is left without a moment to breathe. It’s a real part of self-care, something that our American schedule often doesn’t adopt. A good schedule for the busy family means scheduling in a collective break. Rest can mean a lot of things. It could mean a delegated siesta (nap) or quiet time, where everyone does something that they feel like doing. It could mean a slowing down period in the evenings. It could mean one day of the week where nothing is allowed on the schedule (Sunday?). “No schedule” days could be family days, board game days, movie nights, walk days, or chill days where everyone does their own thing. Whatever sounds good and feels right. Scheduled rest times could be eating times, a time where everyone knows they can gather for food. For a lot of families, this might be an early or late dinner. But, for others, this time could be breakfast, brunch or lunch. Rest on your schedule could mean all of the above. Whatever you decide on for rest, make it sacred. There’s no running around or stress for anyone during these times. There’s no driving in circles or stuffing food in your mouth as you run out the door. There is only doing things that revitalize you, strengthen your relationships, or fill your individual cups. This might mean that you do things together, or it might mean that you do things apart. One thing is for sure: There is opportunity. Opportunity to rest. Opportunity to connect. Opportunity to explore and grow.
At the end of it all, this is your schedule. It should decrease your stress levels and serve you and your family. It supports your priorities and increases your communication. As for getting your 5-year-old to get their socks on? That’s on you.