The holidays are over, and it’s time to head back to work and school. Go ahead and let it out — UGH! After a few weeks of fun and merriment, it’s back to the old routine, and that can be a drag.
But what if it doesn’t have to be? There are ways to freshen up your schedule and find time in your day to appreciate that joy and connection every day of the year. Here’s how to keep you and your kids happy during the transition back to everyday life.
Plan your week together
The return of school and work often means the return of a full calendar. After-school sports and drive-thru dinners can lead to exhaustion. It feels like there’s little time for anything else.
But with a little work, you can find some time in your schedule. The first step — sit down to a family meeting and discuss everyone’s commitments and priorities. Getting everything down on paper (or on your shared virtual calendar) will make it easier to see the free time in your week. It’s also a great way to keep up with what everyone has going on.
While planning your week, ask your family about their priorities — is there something they need extra time for this week? A test or project coming up? Or do they really want to watch the newest superhero movie? And don’t forget your own priorities. If you want to try a new restaurant or catch up on some reading, write it down! The point is for everyone’s needs and wants to be shared and valued.
Once everyone shares, fill up your calendar with things you want to do along with things you have to do. But remember this next tip…
Make time to relax
This hopefully came up in your family planning meeting, but if not, put relaxation on your schedule. Yes — you need to actually write it down. No family can go, go, go all the time. Choose a few times during each week to do nothing.
This may look like screen time or a relaxing walk outside while listening to your newest audiobook. You could work on an artsy passion project, or just pile up with everyone on the couch and chill. No matter what, make sure nothing has to get done during this time. It is free and open. A chance to breathe and relax. Enjoy it!
Find a mealtime solution
One of the most important tasks of the day can also be a big time drain. Planning and prepping dinner all week takes away from so many other things. Even if you enjoy cooking, the planning, shopping, and cleanup may feel like a chore.
Luckily, there are several meal planning services available. Emeals is a popular and affordable meal planning option. They will even send your list to your favorite grocery chain for pickup or delivery. And don’t forget the meal delivery options like HelloFresh or EveryPlate. These can get a little pricey, but sometimes it’s worth the extra cost to have something healthy, affordable, and kid-friendly ready to cook.
If you’re trying to keep your budget in mind while saving some time, check out free weekly meal plans posted by many food bloggers. You can order your grocery pickup or delivery to free up even more of your day.
And on those crazy busy evenings, don’t sweat the occasional fast-food stop. It’s totally ok to save your sanity and pick up a burger if that’s the best option between after-school practice and bedtime.
Mix in some fun
If your calendar is full of must-dos, try your best to squeeze in some just-because moments. Some of the best ideas don’t take much time but can have a huge impact on your family’s day. Just think short and sweet!
A quick trip to your local ice cream shop can do wonders for everyone’s mood. Or grab some donuts on Saturday evening for an early Sunday breakfast treat. Kids love these sweet times spent together, whether they’re a surprise or the start of a new tradition.
Have a little more time to share? Plan a once-a-month outing to somewhere new. Check out the bowling alley or skating rink. Visit a local state park for a Saturday hike. Or see something new at your closest children’s museum.
It can feel overwhelming trying to squeeze anything extra into your weekends, but little things can rejuvenate your family. Don’t try to plan something huge every weekend — unscheduled time is important too. But once a month, or even once every three months, plan a special outing everyone will enjoy.
Embrace the occasional late night fun
You’ve got your schedule all written out. Dinner time and bedtime are set, and you follow it to a T. That’s great! Schedules are important for many kids and can help reduce stress for everybody. But sometimes, it’s ok (and even fun!) to relax and go with the flow.
Some of our favorite moments happen when we miss bedtime. Late-night snacks and movies, great conversations, and lots of laughs seem even better after the sun goes down.
Of course, this doesn’t need to happen all the time. You have a schedule for a reason. But when the rigid schedule starts causing extra stress (rather than keeping it at bay) it’s ok to stretch it a bit. So every now and then, let them finish that movie on a Saturday night or enjoy a Tuesday night bowl of ice cream before bed. These are the unexpected memories you’ll cherish forever.
Focus on connection
Being busy is the default for most families nowadays. But finding moments to connect during a hectic day is still possible.
Car rides are a great time to chat and build your relationship with your child. Ask about their day, but get specific. You’re more likely to get a multiple-word answer if you ask how their science project played out rather than “did you have a good day”. Can’t get anything out of them? Try to share a couple of interesting moments from your day. Or put on a song you know they love and just enjoy the ride.
Another great time to slow down and connect is right before lights out. By bedtime, your children have had a chance to process their day. Let them know you are always there any time they need to talk. And as hard as it can be, don’t rush through the bedtime routine. If they ask for an extra book or another kiss goodnight, take a deep breath and give in. Have a set boundary (“ok, but this is the last book”), but when possible, give them this time with you. Some of the best moments for building your relationship happen in the quiet.
Magical moments can happen anytime
You are creating beautiful memories with your children, even when you don’t plan them. Those cookies you randomly decided to bake last week (Toll House premade dough for the win!) and that conversation you shared about their latest video game — these are the times that count.
While you’re filling up your weekly calendar, give everyone a voice and some time to choose — including yourself. Go with the flow when needed, and live your best life with your family.
Do you have a favorite family schedule hack? We’d love to hear it! Share your best tips and tricks with us on our socials @PLBfun!