The hot summer days are bending to the arrival of autumn, and pool days and leisurely family weekends will soon be replaced by the relentless back-to-school rush. Chaotic mornings, hurried meals and piles of homework can easily derail family routines and home organization. Although it can sometimes seem impossible to stay connected during the transition back to school, we want to encourage you to incorporate these four essential tips this school year.
Identify Your Family’s Values
What does your family value and how do those values influence the way you spend your precious time together? Each family has certain ideas, beliefs and habits that are subtly woven into the tapestry of the home. What are yours and do you honor those with your time? Choose to invest in activities that complement your family’s goals, not add to your collective stress. Consider creating a family philosophy or mission statement that clearly identifies your family’s values and goals.* Use this as a guiding light when life gets busy and tough decisions need to be made about how you spend your time as a family.
Say No to Schedule Clutter
Once you’ve identified those values—and we strongly recommend posting them in a visible place in your home for the whole family to see—it’s time to tackle your schedule. Some responsibilities are unavoidable; we have to work, send our kids to school or school at home and maintain our homes and relationships with family and friends. But what activities on your schedule are more trouble than they’re worth? What can you cut to free up precious time? Imagine a completely blank schedule. What would you happily add back in? What would happen if instead of adding another extracurricular to your kids’ schedule, they had more time with family and to simply be kids? Say no to the unimportant to create space in your schedule so that you can prioritize your family’s needs.
Set Tech Boundaries
So you’ve streamlined your schedule and you’re spending more time together as a family. You’re on your way! But wait, is your family dinner table cluttered with phones and tablets? Are conversations meaningful and focused or scattered with distraction? Discuss as a family setting boundaries for when using technology is appropriate and when it isn’t. Staying connected through technology is not bad but it should always be viewed as a tool and not a lifeline. Set rules and then put devices in “time-out” during family time.
Create a Family Holiday
And finally, consider creating a monthly family holiday. This could be a Saturday or a specific evening once a month in which you and your family celebrate your bond, your values and this life you’re creating together. Cook a new recipe together, invite your closest friends and family, and celebrate good conversation and a more connected home. Or take a day trip to hike and picnic at one of Oklahoma’s many state parks. Not outdoorsy? Visit a museum, explore a new town or serve one of the city’s many non-profits together. Plan a “stay at home” Saturday, complete with pajamas all day, breakfast for dinner and a family movie night. It doesn’t have to be grand, expensive or complicated to become your family’s own unique monthly ritual. Whatever you decide to do, write it on the family schedule and honor it. Your kids will begin to anticipate their family’s special day and you’ll create memories that will stay with them once they move on from your home.
We know the back-to-school grind can dictate your family’s schedule, but we want to encourage you to take steps to purposefully reclaim some of that time. Make a point every day to connect with one another, to live out your values and to create a family culture that stays with your kids throughout the school day and beyond.
*For a guide to creating a family philosophy statement, check out www.cohesivehome.com.
Kate Saffle and Melissa Risenhoover, two best friends who met as neighbors in Oklahoma City’s Belle Isle neighborhood, share a passion for guiding families toward stress-free parenting through simplifying. They host the Cohesive Home Podcast as well as offer resources for crafting a happier, values-driven home. Find out more on their website and connect on Instagram @cohesive_home.