Back to the Routine - Jessica Fine Patterson, LPC
Updated: Aug 27, 2018
Twas the night before school starts, and all through the house, every creature was stirring, like a rabid mouse. The backpacks were thrown by the door without care, in hopes that fall break would soon be there. The parents were tossing awake in their beds, while overwhelming schedules danced in their heads. Haunted by the chaos of school years past, they mourn that this one will be far from the last.
For many, a new school year seems daunting. Gone are the long summer days of do-whatever. Yes, it’s back to the grind of surviving one blur-of-a-week at a time. Does it have to be like this? Can you make this year a little easier for yourself and your family? Here are a few helpful suggestions you can try this time around.
- Chore charts: There is a lot to do around the house, and it is never-ending. Upon whose shoulders does most of the work fall? Usually, it’s the one who decides it is easiest if they just get it done their own way: the “best” way. Instead, take a deep breath and let go of some of those chores. Have a family meeting and let everyone participate in creating a chart that lays out each person’s daily responsibilities. Even the Littles can be involved, as young as 2! They can clean up their toys and even help perform simple tasks in the kitchen. Emphasize teamwork in your family. You will not only be making your life easier, but also teaching children valuable life skills.
- Routine charts: I want to invite you for a moment to stop and recap in your mind your family’s typical busy school day. How much time do you spend convincing your kids to do their homework, to brush their teeth and get dressed, to get off their video games (“Just give me 5 more minutes, Mom!”), or making sure they don’t forget something for school? Much of our energy is expended on keeping our kids doing what they’re supposed to do. I suggest to you that this does not teach kids independence or responsibility. They will likely need continued external motivation and control to do necessary things for self, well into adulthood. Instead, help each kid develop a daily routine chart. Let them have some power over when they take care of their responsibilities. This allows for ownership and empowers them to manage their own daily lives, which increases commitment. Then, sit back and let the chart be the boss. When you’re met with resistance, simply refer to the chart.
- Clean your schedule up and prioritize family: How often do you sit down together as a family for dinner or game/movie nights? Quality family time should ideally be an integral part of daily life. If there is no time in the day to fit in family time, then schedules need to be adjusted. The same goes for alone time with your spouse. Marriage is the foundation of the home, so it is important to intentionally nurture it with meaningful conversation and affection. If this seems unrealistic to you, reevaluate your family’s weekly schedule. Think of your DVR list: if a program is low on the “priority” list, it simply will not record if too many other higher-priority programs are recording. Likewise, family time will not happen if other things are considered more important. Prioritize your family time when planning your schedule, and you may be surprised to find how many activities or obligations can be weeded out.
- Let go of responsibility for others. When we feel like we are responsible for everyone else in our family, it can be overwhelming and stressful. Conversely, realizing that we are not able to control anyone except ourselves can bring a sense of relief. Instead of trying to manage everyone to stay on track in the hustle of life, teach and empower others to be responsible for their own selves. For example, teach your kids to do things that you tend to instinctively do for them, like getting dressed, packing lunches, preparing meals or completing college applications. When we do for our children what they can do for themselves, it robs them of opportunities to develop important life skills. Trust in the ability of your kids and your spouse to solve their own daily problems by being a helper-guide to them, not a rescuer. Now, all of this “shirking” of responsibility for others ought to afford you more time to be responsible for your own schedule and self-care. Commit to yourself to have adequate sleep and a healthy diet this year. Take time for yourself and relax your mind, knowing that when you step down a little, others will tend to step up.
These tips can help you feel more free, relaxed, and energized to face the challenges each year holds. You can’t stop the busy school year from happening, but you can decide to change how you function through it all. This school year really can be different for you and your family!
Jessica Fine Patterson, LPC firstname.lastname@example.org 512-238-1700 ext 321