I’ve had a lot of parents tell me that lack of time is a real problem. Many families have two parents working outside the home and are balancing home and office precariously. Associated with it all is a pressing feeling of guilt as parents think they’re not doing justice to the home part of their life and the raising of their kids. Many are thinking about the office when they’re home and worrying about home when they’re at work. If you throw in behavior problems in kids who sense their parents’ conflicted roles and take advantage of them, you have parents who are stressed and sleepless. What could be done to alleviate the stress and produce some order in families like this?
Okay, you’ll likely roll your eyes when I tell you that something that will help immensely is setting up a schedule. Most working parents probably have a schedule of sorts, but I wonder if they’ve included some of the things that will oil the machinery of the family and make it run more smoothly?
The following list contains the essentials to be included in a weekly family schedule:
- parents’ travel time and time at the office
- kids’ school time
- kids’ activities outside the home and travel time
- kids’ homework time
- mealtimes ( at least 3 are with the entire family)
- family strategy session
- running errands and grocery shopping
- meal prep and cleanup
- preparation for dusting and vacuuming
- dusting, vacuuming and floor care (unless a cleaning lady has been hired)
- other cleaning (bathrooms etc.)
- kids’ social time
- parents’ social time
- parents’ “me” time
- kids’ bedtime
- parents’ bedtime
- anything else I haven’t thought of, eg. church, visiting grandparents etc.
It’s important that the family makes the schedule up together. After a happy family meal, get out some paper and pens and have everyone help to make a list of the things that the family must include in the schedule and suggest the time slots that possibly could be allocated for them. Make a grid with the days of the week (all seven) across the top and the times of day down the left side. Put all times in from wake-up until bedtime.
Once you have your schedule grid made up, transfer items from the list the family has made and pencil them in on the grid. Be sure to have the family agree on the time choices. If homework is to be done after school, for example, it’s important that the kids help choose that time.
You may find that the kids are over-programmed and have too many demands on their time. Is it necessary for your daughter to have skating lessons, piano lessons and ballet? With their help some activities could be deleted. In this way, some of the kids’ stress as well as that of the parents can be relieved. Kids need some down time too and it’s important for their development that they have time to “be”.
It’s at family mealtimes that the basics of good communication can be put in place. Talking about the day, the good parts and the bad, giving each member a turn, and listening without criticism, is a great way to help kids open up without their feeling they’ve been grilled.
At bedtime, too, there has to be time for reading a story together and time for a chat about the day. This is where, in a one-on-one setting with a parent, a child has a chance to open up, not just about the story, but about the day and its ups and downs.
Parents can “divide and conquer” driving, errands, shopping etc. and kids often offer to help as well. If they do, be sure and take them up on it! Kids are much more capable than we sometimes assume.
When you have your schedule put together, now comes the challenge to stick to it. If everyone has had input, everyone will likely want to make it work. Some changes may have to be made, but the biggest change will be in your family life and the feeling of co-operation and togetherness that will result, not to mention a reduction in stress and feelings of guilt.
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