You pick your kids up from school, toss a snack to them as you pull out of the parking lot, and head for soccer practice. After soccer, it’s a quick trip across town to swim class, a stop at the grocery store, then home for dinner and bed.
But wait! There’s homework to be done and showers to be taken, and didn’t you promise your kids that you’d read another chapter in that book that’s been sitting on the nightstand, unopened since last week?
With lives that are busier than ever, it can often feel like there’s just no time. No time for housework. No time to spend together as a family. No time for free play or relaxing. No time.
Studies have shown how important free play is to children’s development, but with everything families have going on these days, unstructured time often gets pushed to the bottom of the pile of priorities.
If that’s the situation in which you currently find your family, you may be wondering not only how to balance all of your family’s activities, but if it’s even possible to do so.
The following tips will help you take a step-by-step approach to balancing your family’s schedule by helping you decide what’s most important to your family.
1. Write it all down
Grab a pen and paper and jot down all your family’s current obligations. Work, school, activities, sports, clubs, homework, everything. Then add any other activities you’d like your family to be doing, such as free play, a weekly family game night, or other activities in which you plan to enroll your kids.
2. Highlight the essentials
Once it’s all written down, decide on the non-negotiables. School and work will be on that list of course, but then you’ll have to decide what else is most important, both to the family as a whole and to each individual.
You may find it helpful to number the activities on your list in order of importance, as well as to write each activity on a calendar so you can make note of any scheduling conflicts.
If you’re still having trouble with the task of choosing the most important activities, ask yourself the following questions:
Which of these activities do my children love?
Which of these activities do I love?
What would happen if we stopped doing a certain activity?
Which activities are seasonal and which are long-term?
3. Pare down the rest
After you’ve decided on the activities that you must (or want to) keep doing, it’s time to make cuts. If your family’s schedule is jam-packed, you may want to cut out all the extras, but if you have time to spare, you may decide to keep some of the activities that were lower on your priority list.
4. Test and adjust
Once your family has agreed upon which activities will continue and which will not, give it a try for several weeks. You may find that it works swimmingly or you may find that adjustments are necessary. Be willing to tweak things until you find the right balance.
By giving conscious thought to what’s most important to your family, you can figure out the best way to balance it all. Just as each of your children has their own unique personality and needs, so too does each family. While one family may enjoy a busier schedule, another might desire to have more free time. Decide what works for your family and you won’t go wrong!