I hear people asking all the time, “Where did summer go?!” Sometimes it feels like the season screeches to a halt and tosses us into a new routine. It can be challenging, at first, to find the right groove for your family. Transitions are hard for everyone. Be gentle with yourself and with your children, and work opportunities for family connection into the busyness of these school days.
Here are some of my favorite tips:
Draft a rhythm. First, think about what you need to pull off to get everyone out of the door on time. What can happen the night before to take the pressure off in the mornings? And, where can you build in some family time in the midst of getting ready for the day?
- Family Pig Pile - everyone can pile into your bed to say good morning and talk about what’s coming up.
- Breakfast Together - simple weekday breakfasts make it easier to sit down together to share your morning meal and talk about the day ahead.
- Clean Up Game- make getting ready fun (and fast) with little touches you can all enjoy. Sing some silly songs or play their favorite music; say “yes” to more of their choices so they can feel excited about getting ready; celebrate with a quick game or the next chapter of a beloved book before you head out the door.
Be realistic. Decide now how you would like your afternoons to flow. How many afterschool activities will be manageable? Don’t forget the incredible value of downtime for children. This is when they can rest, or just play and be free to use their imaginations. If it’s helpful, ask older children to create a list of both structured and unstructured afterschool fun, and then choose 1-2 structured activities and several more unstructured that they will enjoy at home or in the neighborhood. This way, everyone decides together what will suit the entire family.
Make time to connect. Our children are finding their own way in this great big world, and as you may remember, that’s not always easy. The more time you all spend “hanging out” at home after school or on the weekends, the more opportunities your children will have to come to you when something is bothering them. A mom in one of my workshops remembered that her own mother always gave the kids a snack after school and then sat down to knit or read a book. She didn’t pester them for details of their day, but she was open and available to her children if they needed her. What daily rituals can you use to show your kids that “your door is always open?” If you need some help, check out these clever conversation starters.
As you’re settling into the new school year, take some time to talk about these topics with your partner or a friend. Imagine the best school year, with the perfect balance of independence and family time, then work strategically to make it a reality!