How to manage your kid’s schedule during a busy week
Mom and child at a computer

Whether it’s hockey practice, coding camp, dance class, or any of the many other activities on offer for kids today, extra-curricular activities are an important way for them to pursue their interests and keep active. For parents, as much as we recognize the importance of these after-school activities, it can be a struggle to keep up – especially with multiple kids in multiple programs and a busy work schedule in the mix. While no one has yet come up with a way to add hours to the day (much to the frustration of many an over-scheduled parent) there are a few things you can do to make your kids’ days more manageable, for your benefit as much as theirs.

Be realistic

If your kid is dead-set on dance, your partner wants them in test prep, and registration for swimming lessons has just opened up at your neighbourhood pool, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially with meal preparation, housework, and all of the other things you need to do this week. You are perfectly justified in feeling this way, and there are a few important steps you can take to make life a little more manageable.

The best way to set yourself up for success is to be realistic about what is doable for your family, and not be too hard on yourself if it’s less than you think is ideal. Instead of filling your kids’ schedules with extra-curricular activities every day of the week, leave several days when you’ll all be home together as a family. Staying home and cooking a meal together, having a family dinner, or playing games as a family is just as valuable as any extra-curricular program.

Keep a family calendar

As with your work schedule, a calendar is an essential tool for keeping track of your kids’ weekly commitments. While using a calendar on your smartphone or computer will help you stay on top of things, having an additional calendar on the kitchen or dining room wall at home – either a standard wall calendar or a whiteboard – will allow your kids to take part in managing their own schedules as well. 

Have a weekly meeting

Whether or not you have a family whiteboard with the week’s events on it, you may find it useful to schedule a family meeting on Sunday nights to discuss the week ahead. This is a great time for both you and your kids to plan and prepare for upcoming activities and address any potential scheduling conflicts ahead of time. 

Plan meals

When schedules get tight, among the first casualties is the family meal. Finding the time to shop, prepare, and eat a healthy and delicious home-cooked meal just isn’t in the cards when you’re rushing between pickups and dropoffs. If you find yourself resorting to the drive-thru or frozen pizza more than you’d like, advanced preparation can be a game-changer. This can mean anything from creating a weekly menu and buying everything you need over the weekend, to prepping ingredients the night before, to making big batches of hearty soups and stews to freeze ahead of time. The more you can plan ahead, and the more you can prepare on your less-busy days, the easier it will be to get supper on the table on busier ones.

Put everything in its place 

Avoid delays by organizing a “landing station” by the door with essential gear for the day, ideally in place the night before it’s needed. Bins and organizers can help you keep things tidy, and encourage your kids to put things back in their place, saving you both stress when you’re trying to get out the door.

Get the kids involved

Time management is a life skill, and now is the best time to get your kids started. Encourage them to help you with the family calendar, and take responsibility for making sure they have all of their gear ready when it’s time to go.

Make time for yourself 

Finally, it really is important to take time for yourself amid all of the chaos of the week. Whether it’s reading a novel for an hour while your kid’s at swimming practice, or stepping out to a weekend yoga class while someone else looks after the kiddos, you aren’t the only one who benefits from self-care. A happy, de-stressed parent is always a better parent than one who is at their limit.

Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.

Jeremy Freed is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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