Keeping the Family Schedule on Track
Do you remember when you were a kid? Setting priorities within the household was simple. School work always came first, and activities second. All of your activities were somehow involved with school, so the schedules fell into place naturally. The kids who held after-school jobs simply dropped their other activities. Weekends were family and social times.
That, of course, is ancient history. Not only are most families overwhelmed with daily schedules, but the children are in more accelerated academic situations. It is not unusual to find families stretched to the limits, trying to make sure their children do everything and get everywhere. Everything is important, or so it seems.
How can you effectively set priorities and keep the household running smoothly?
- Set Priorities.
Figure out what is most important to your family. "List10 values you live by and write them down," says Mimi Donaldson, co-author of Bless Your Stress: It Means You're Still Alive. By identifying your values, you can begin to sort out where different priorities are within the household.
Deciding on the priorities should be the result of a family discussion. Parents may be surprised to find that their children agree with responsibilities education, religious instruction and chores being at the top of the list. However, parents benefit by listening to what their child does not consider a priority.
- Enforce Your Family's Priorities
Once the priorities are established within the family, it is up to the parents to enforce them. If your child wants to go out with friends on a school night, determine where the priority is. If education comes before friendships in your house, explain to your child that if she wants good grades, she shouldn't go out the night before a test. Hugh Bases, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, says that it is important for families to make sure there is plenty of unstructured time in their lives. "Time set aside just for family lowers stress," he says.
Bases also suggests that parents develop priorities within their own family unit. "Make the strategy known by using consistency," he says. "For example, have dinner together every night without the television on and no phone interruptions. Everyone has to eat, and it is a social activity."
Learning to adapt to small priorities like that makes it easier for families to adapt when it seems like life is pushing at all directions and the calendar is completely booked.
- Find Flexibility
It is also important for families to be flexible. There are times when it is better to let children, especially older children, develop their own set of priorities. Let the kids make their own choices, let them figure out what they want to do, and let them face the consequences.