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School is starting again--already! If you’re like most families, that means a change in schedule from the less structured summer break.
If the idea of trying to fit in homework, meals, down-time, extracurriculars, and more--not to mention leaving enough time for 8-10 hours of sleep--feels overwhelming, you’re not alone. Creating a schedule, that’s comfortable and functional for both parent and child can feel like a major feat, but it’s also one of the best ways you can help children of all ages succeed.
The good news is, there are a few easy ways you can create a schedule that works for everyone this school year.
1. Work Together
Creating a schedule shouldn’t be a solo activity! Block out some time to create a schedule with your child--and then prepare to listen! When kids don’t get a say in what happens in their lives or are forced to comply with a schedule they didn’t sign off on or understand, they are much less likely to stick to the schedule, and may even feel resentful of activities they might otherwise enjoy.
Start by sitting down together and writing down a list of everything included in the schedule. It can be helpful to break this list into categories:
This list should be the shortest and include things like homework, practices, study time, mealtimes, and sleep. These items typically have a time constraint associated with them--e.g., a practice that happens every other day at 4:00. Every family’s “Have To” list will be a little bit different!
This is your list of the things that need to get done during the day but don’t have a strict timeline as to when they need to be accomplished. Examples would be cleaning a bedroom, putting the laundry away, or walking the dog.
This is the fun stuff--and it’s just as important as the “Have to’s” or “Need to’s”! This is your child’s opportunity to decide what he or she would like to do during the week like TV time, hanging out with friends, or attending a special event.
2. Resist Over Scheduling
Once you have everything written down, take a look at how the list translates to a monthly, daily, and weekly calendar. Check in with your child, and trust your intuition. Does this seem comfortable and doable? Does it seem like a particular day will be extra stressful? Is there an extracurricular activity scheduled every day of the week?
Don’t be afraid to edit--even when it comes to “Have to” items like extracurriculars. Over-scheduling can be detrimental to kids’ development and lead to problems down the road. No matter how excited your child is to participate in hockey, soccer, dance, and guitar lessons, the reality of including all of these extracurriculars can lead to burnout and frustration for everyone.
Always keep in mind that kids need at least eight hours of sleep each night (teenagers may need up to 10), and that down time and play is as important as structured activities. Play and relaxation can help kids recharge and rest their minds in preparation for the following day.
3. Make the Schedule Visible
When you and your child have created a schedule that everyone is satisfied with, don’t put the notebook in a drawer! Print or write the schedule out on a calendar or simply a sheet of paper, then place it somewhere that everyone can see as a reminder. It doesn’t have to be fancy--just visible!
Keep in mind that you may need to make changes or adjustments to the schedule as the school year goes on. Weekly check-ins to find out how the schedule is working for everyone is a great way to stay in touch with your child and learn about any problems you might not have been aware of when it comes to the schedule.
This fall, start the school year off right by being proactive about scheduling, working together with your kids to come up with solutions that respect everyone’s needs, and guarding your kids against over scheduling.
If creating and sticking to a schedule hasn’t worked out well for you in the past, don’t worry! The new school year is about starting fresh and learning new things. Take the opportunity to give scheduling another try with these tips!