9 Sanity Savers for Busy Families
If you have children you’ve probably never uttered the phrase: We really have nothing to do. That is because children = activities and activities = busy families. You don’t have to give up your sanity, though, while balancing soccer practice, homework, and family meals. Try these 9 sanity savers the next time your busy family schedule makes you feel like a full-time taxi driver, loan officer, chef, and security guard all in one.
9 Tips to Balance Schedules for Busy Families
1. Have your child make a top 10 list. This list should include the top 10 activities your child feels are most important in his or her life. If you’ve been driving to and from choir practices for 5 months and it turns out your child doesn’t even enjoy it – maybe this can be one of the first activities to take a hiatus. You also just might be surprised by what your child adds to that list. Younger kids can make a top 5 list – and yes – playing with friends after school counts.
2. Make your own top 10 list. This should include what you value for your children’s experiences and you should consider how they add value to your child’s life. Maybe it will look something like this:
- Family game night
- Family meals
- 1 sport or athletic activity per season
- Church youth group
- Hiking as a family at least once a month
- Dance classes for dear daughter
- History club
- Theatre (acting, attending, etc.)
3. Crunch the numbers. Part of the stress for busy families is the financial commitment to many of these activities. What if you have your daughter’s dance class as a priority on your list but she doesn’t even add it, and it is the most expensive activity? Maybe that is your sign that this class just isn’t worth your pennies or your scheduling efforts.
4. Investigate free activities. If you value the theatre experience for your child but the tickets for your family of 5 to attend puts a crunch in your budget, find other ways to get a feel for the stage. Maybe your child has an interest in acting or you and your child can sign up to be ushers at the next community college performance – you’ll get to see the shows for free and have a new perspective on how the theatre works.
5. Combine your efforts. If volunteering in the community is ranked high on your list, but so is hiking together for family time, see if your local park system has room for more volunteers for litter clean-up crews, trail maintenance, or other opportunities to combine your activities. It saves on driving and scheduling messes.
6. Get a family calendar and hang it where everyone in the family can see. If you have older kids you can try a digital family calendar by which everyone is connected via their smartphones or tablets. Either way – the important thing is that all members of the family can see the calendar. I couldn’t survive without my calendar that includes a column for each member in the family. It is in a central location and everyone uses it to check in, make plans, and realize the world doesn’t always revolve around one child’s schedule.
7. Create a contact and information list. For each activity in which your child participates, keep a list (I like small notebooks with pockets for loose papers) of parents and coaches. Use this for arranging carpooling, whose turn it is to provide snacks, and a place to stash those flyers and reminders the kids bring home.
8. Pack an emergency bag. Include extra shoes, socks, books, snacks, water bottles, etc. for making the most of time when you’re running around with the kids. If there is an extra 20 minutes between practice times, slip on the walking shoes and find a trail or head to the park with the little ones. The physical activity can do wonders for relieving stress.
9. Simplify the family meal. If the goal is to have everyone eat together, let this be the night you splurge on take-out or let the kids eat cereal and fruit. It doesn’t have to be picture perfect. Recently in my efforts to wrangle a family dinner between sports practices and class schedules our sons did not have time for a shower so they stepped onto the porch and sprayed each other’s clothing with fabric refresher – we got our family dinner and a new view on priorities. Then take turns sharing one thing about the week that everyone in the family might not know.
The reality is that busy families are everywhere and busy schedules don’t necessarily mean bad things. Your busy family does not have to give up balance in life if you take a few extra moments to prioritize, organize, and enjoy the view.