Planning your School and Family Routines

The start of a new school year heralds new subjects, new teachers, new friends, new after school activities, new expectations and many more things than I can think of! We also multiply all of this ‘new-ness’ with each additional child in a family as well as the grown ups in the house with all of their new year responsibilities and commitments…. I will confess that for many years I would find myself only getting used to the new routine by about week 10, by which time, the term would end and it would feel like all went back to the drawing board! As a self confessed fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-person I realised there may be a better way and that my previously ‘organic’ approach of allowing the routine to emerge from the chaos naturally may be somewhat flawed! I realised in order for me to account for all the complexities of my family’s various commitments and to manage the homework, the activities, the school-night bedtime and everything else, I would need to put some sort of considered thought into it …something I was strangely spending more time doing with client families than for my own! Whilst I often believe much of psychology is common sense, sometimes we all struggle to move to action, no matter how obvious of seemingly logical it is. Here are my top tips for making it work:

  • Write it down… it doesn’t have to be beautifully formatted and colour coded with nice borders! It can be scribbled down on the back of an envelope or scrap piece of paper. This is your reminder of what should be happening when, so you don’t have to keep all of this floating somewhere within conscious awareness all the time. Looking at it each day whilst you are getting into the groove of the new routine will help you to stick to the plan.
  • Think about each child and adult in the family and their ideal timings for things like sleep and getting work done. Are we expecting an over tired 8 year old to be doing their reading aloud at 7pm? Or are we letting bedtime (kids or adults) slide out later and later because we are scrambling to get through all the various tasks for the day or watching one more episode of something or other? Meeting basic needs like sleep is important for any kind of routine to function. Write in bed times and work backwards, allowing time for all the must do tasks.
  • Once you have all the must do’s in there, consider whether there is time for enjoyment and spending time together in all of the busy-ness. Eating together, or having time when you are available as a parent to play, read, talk or just hang around in each others presence without being absorbed by other things are good ways to connect.
  • Factor in when devices are part of the environment and when they are not (kids and adults)… it might be quite hard for anything to compete with the excitement and instant gratification of a screen so having times (in the routine) where they get put away will make sure that everybody is able to develop and nurture their enjoyment of things that may require more effort with less obvious reward. Some naturally find this harder than others, but it remains important for us all nonetheless.
  • Revisit your routine – sometimes you need to tweak as over time it might become clear that some things are working better than others. At least you will be ahead of the game – not just putting the pieces together at week 10!

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