The new school year has begun, which means the return to the daily routines of heading to class, early bedtimes, and homework. While this stability may be a welcome change from the craziness of summer, it can also allow for a greater disconnect in families as each member of the family goes their separate ways.
The excitement of a new schedule often only lasts so long, and the school routine can quickly go from appreciated to overwhelming. If your family is like mine, we are each busy with our own work – whether from school or jobs – and this tends to keep us apart. However, my goal for this school year is to make family time intentional. Here are a few strategies which I am already finding helpful, just a few weeks in!
Use a Calendar
A calendar? Isn’t that just one more thing to keep updated? Hear me out. I have found that keeping a calendar can have a calming effect on everyone in the family. Google has a lovely shared calendar option in which each member of the family can post their own activities and see what other family members are up to. Sharing a calendar also makes it easy to plan time together and invite each other to important events.
Play High-Low Each Day
Let’s face it – getting your kids to open up can be like pulling teeth. One of the ways to connect and circumvent the grunting responses is to play “High-Low” as a family.
In this game, each person talks about one high point and one low point from the day. This open-ended activity is an easy way to get kids talking before they can remember that they didn’t really want to in the first place. Make it a point to use this game while driving kids to and from activities or at the dinner table to help keep everyone connected.
While most often done with younger kids, reading together with your children is a valuable way to connect with them at any age. And if kids are going to school, then there is likely one book or another that they are supposed to be reading for class – take advantage of this fact to take the guesswork out of what to read. Or, amp up the excitement by letting your child choose a book that he or she is interested in!
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About thirty minutes before bedtime, snuggle up and begin reading together. Turn off all electronics and relax, letting the words wash over you both as you take turns reading the book out loud. Just being together like this will help you and your kids connect on a daily basis, without the pressure of feeling like you have to have life-changing conversations. These will happen simply because you are together.
Eat Dinner Together
There is no substitute for eating dinner together as a family. Between extracurricular activities and meetings at the office, dinner may not happen until after 7 p.m. on some nights, but that’s okay. There have been times that life is so crazy and I’m so stressed that we have chicken nuggets and ice cream for dinner (it’s healthy if you top the ice cream with fruit…).
Regardless of what you actually serve for dinner, the shared eating time allows everyone to take a breath and connect. Keep all electronics turned off and all toys away from the table in order to keep this family time sacred. The conversations and sense of togetherness will make this a time that nobody will want to miss.
Yes, keeping commitments is an essential skill to teach your kids. But sometimes, we all just get tired. And we do not get rewarded for keeping every single appointment on our calendars.
When your husband and kids start to have meltdowns, fighting with and snapping at each other, it might be time to shut everything down and just be together. Don’t be afraid to cancel plans, skip obligations, and play hooky with your family.
Order a pizza, play a game together, and watch a movie or read together before bed. This family time will help each of you take a deep breath, relax, and reset, providing a soft place to land from the craziness of the outside world.
At the end of the day, the most important priority is your family. Letting everyone know that they are valued and loved will keep your bond strong, no matter how many soccer games or PowerPoint presentations arise.