How to Add Structure to Your Family Schedule

how ot add structure to your family schedule

Structure is defined as constructing or arranging according to a plan. It is to give a pattern for your time and your space. Families operate best with a structure in place for how they live and work together in their home. Without structure, your family feels haphazard and chaotic.

What exactly is structure? It is specific rules and routines that focus on maintaining consistent times for actions within your family.  Structure can help every family feel a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging and a sense of well being.  Here are a few ideas on how to add structure to your family structure.

 

Identify the rules that are the structure of your family.
All families work best with rules and routines. Those rules detail bedtime, meal time, household responsibilities and respect for each other. It also delineates what spaces are used to do what activities.
Create rules for yourself and your family that reinforce the values you hold.  For example, families that value productivity and timeliness often have bedtime rules.  Whatever rules you create, be sure you are as specific as possible, focus on specific behaviours as examples and should be realistic to be accomplished.

Putting structure into place

Structure thrives when there is consistency, predictability and follow through with actions. Often these are the most difficult parts behind structure.  Consistently heading to bed at a set time or having regular meal times as a family can be derailed because of distractions like electronics, chronic lateness or any other activity.  The best ways to achieve consistency is by setting that time as sacred with a strong stop time before that.  The more consistent you are, the more predictable everyone’s life is.  Knowing that there is no other option, that the structure can’t be denied, then life proceeds calmly.  Follow through may be difficult in the moment because of distractions.  However, the more you adhere to the rules and the plan, the easier follow through becomes. These three actions are interrelated and lead to your success.

 

When to start creating structure

If your family life lacks order, now is the time to start creating structure.  As a parent, you establish daily routines including school for your family.  Your daily self care routines are important.

  • Start small. The best starting point is having a structure for bedtime.  This way you are getting a great night’s rest.
  • Get input and buy in from your family.  Hosting a discussion during a family meeting helps everyone be heard and creates a collaborative strategy.
  • Create house rules within your structure so that everyone works as a team to embrace the structure.
  • With work from home, establish and post a schedule for your day. Be sure your work day ends to permit family time together.
  • Use automated devices to help you with structure for self care.  Alexa, Siri and Google Home can all be programmed to share your routine.

 

Structure is not easy to accomplish however well worth the investment in time and energy.

How to Organize a Busy Family Schedule

 

organize a busy family schedule

Family schedules are ramping up.  We all want more time together as a family, time to do what we love and time to be a model for our kids.  You can have all of these!  A busy family schedule requires a combination of intention, planning and tools. Here are four tips on getting and staying organized.

 

Start with values

Family values are the solid foundation for your family schedule. Your intentions become goals, which translate to actions and activities.  There are many “good” opportunities for familes that include building strong minds, spiritual growth and physical well being.  Spend time with your partner or co-parent and discuss what this looks like for your family.  Strong foundations start with strong goals.

The best way to share these goals and activities is with during your family meeting. Gather together to discuss what your time together and apart look like and the options for how to empower these goals. Gather the thoughts, write them down and place these where everyone can see these regularly.  We see this in a lot of word art so why not have your own goals as the art itself.

These family values are also a boundary for everyone getting too busy.  That’s when we feel overwhelmed. At times you will have to prioritize what is best for everyone because there are many “good” opportunities.  By relying on your goals, it makes for easier discussions and decisions.

 

Tools to use

My first thoughts in every team effort is to build solid tools we can all use together. That’s why a family calendar is so important. Because of it’s easy access on everyone’s phone, it’s best to use a digital calendar to keep everyone’s information and activities.

  • Add dates as soon as you learn about these.
  • Block time to add a series of dates such as those that start the school year, holiday times and more.
  • Add dates during the family meeting. Back into what’s needed to accomplish tasks by planning ahead about purchases and driving.
  • Plan a month in advance if possible for big events like birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Add alerts from your smart phone and smart watch. Use your home devices like Alexa and Google Home to help by seting automated reminders.

The hardest part of a family calendar is keeping it up to date and being alert to overlapping activities. It takes consistent management to be sure everyone in your family updates the calendar each day.

 

Communicate vigorously

Family communication keeps everything running smoothly. That communication is more than verbal. It is in email, text, a Trello board, an Asana task and the list goes on. Give yourself space between appointments with short intervals to catch up with communication.  Because so much information comes in quickly daily, you are not always able to respond at that time.  Add a little wrap up communication time to your day.  You will feel more proactive and more in control.

 

Work as a team

Research shows that we can promote teamwork within our family. Kids are natural helpers when they are young and we need to capitalize on this. When your kids offer to help, give them specific tasks and times to accomplish these tasks.  An example of this is when you are making dinner and your kids are ready to help, answer yes to any offers.

No one wants to be the only one to do a task at home. Partner up with family members and create a chart that shares these responsibilities. When there’s a chart, there’s no nagging needed.

There is always more to do than time to do it when it comes to home responsibilities. Write in your family calendar the routines for cleaning the house, doing laundry and cutting the grass.  In the calendar it is an appointment now!

 

Busy family times are happy family times.  Keep a positive, optimistic, resilient attitude and tone of voice.  We convey how we are feeling in our body language how we speak to each other. Try to overcome frustration by steppng back, aligning with positivity and moving forward after a pause.  Listen to these signs and re-align your schedule with your goals to create more time for your intentions.

 

 

How to Get Your Family to Help Keep Your Home Tidy and Organized

ADHD Tidying

keep your home tidy

 

Pandemic or not, families are not necessarily the most tidy or organized.  Parents may be and kids not so much, or a kid or two is organized.  Families with ADHD especially find organizing and tidying difficult.  How can you get started and maintain a tidy and organized home? Check out these tips.

 

Have less to keep tidy and organized

Start with less. Let go of what is not being used, loved or needed. That is difficult because by nature we think “just in case” is our guideline for owning stuff.  It may not be that you want to be a minimalist however you can have less incrementally.  Having less can start with some data. Just how many pairs of undies do you need in a week?  We think it is a bigger number just in case we don’t do laundry.  It can also start with where you store your stuff. All your clothes can fit in your closet or dresser, no matter how small. Get a realistic number of how many to have and set a boundary for where it belongs.

 

Assign a home to stuff to keep tidy and organized

When stuff is not put away, it is clutter. When stuff is not put away, it is untidy.  Be sure that every item in your home, car or office has a specific spot to be put away.  This way, when it is time to clean up there is no discussion on where to place an item. Start by finding items that have never had a home since purchased. Then group like items together that are used together. If there is too much to store together, it is time to declutter. You will find being organized is the key to keeping tidy.

 

Model home tidying

A family meeting is the starting point to setting standards for your family. Start by discussing what the goals are for tidying and then set a time to do the work.  Most families need a daily time. That can be immediately after dinner so that everyone is prepared for the next day.  That includes bringing dishes to the kitchen, gathering recycling, and getting laundry put away.  Create a chart that states what is to be completed during the tidying time.  Everyone working together, at the same time, means that everyone is contributing.

 

Make tidying fun

Yes! Tidying can be fun! We all have playlists and videos. Make a family tidying video and create a Spotify list for tidying.  Serve a treat! Announce ahead of time the tidying rewards for your family! Set up Google Home or Alexa routines to help you stay on track. Ask your kids to help you make this more collaborative and fun.  Keep tidying to a short time with a timer set for 15 minutes. Everyone wants to get this job done.

 

Create routines for tidying

Routines are the hardest part of keeping tidy.  Families lose momentum and all of a sudden everyone is overwhelmed.  If you can tidy daily in the same work flow, that is the best. Everyone eats dinner, and then it is time to tidy.  If not, be sure to tidy as frequently as possible.  The intention to tidy daily may not happen, and it may be only 2 days a week, however this way you have some control.  If you find you are not tidying at the same time daily, tidy when you can daily.  The best way to keep routines going is to tie these to another task that is firmly set.  Use automated reminders like Siri, Google Home and Alexa to signal the start of tidying time.

 

My Organizing Obsession Keepsake Boxes

keepsake boxes

 

Throughout the year 2020, it has become clear what is most precious to us. As we think about connections, family and friends, we know that relationships are by far the most precious. There are some small significant items that are priceless to us. These may be a baby birth announcement, a lock of hair, a college honor society pin or a note from a parent.  My organizing obsession is a place to keep these precious items and honor them.

  • Keepsake boxes come in all sizes and shapes. These can be decorative or plain, locked or keyless.  The concept is that every item needs a home and precious keepsakes are no different. You decide what is to be stored in this box because of it’s value to you.
  • Every member of your family should have their own box to keep what they consider precious.  Store this box on the top shelf of that person’s closet. It’s easy to place items and retrieve it when you want a happy boost.
  • What if your items are larger than the box? Take a photo and print that to keep in your box.

What is in my keepsake box? My mom’s gold wedding band, a shell from my first trip to the beach with my husband, small trinkets my children gave me when they were little and pins of all sorts from all different times in my life.

 

Too many times have I seen my clients’ precious items mixed in with what’s not precious.  I love that these special items have a special home.

 

How to Organize Kids’ Art and School Work

 

What to save and how to save your kiddo’s school work a common challenge for parents. The papers flood in weekly, there’s so many papers, and there is no time to review that papers. Handwritten stories are mixed in with worksheets. In May, a entire desk worth of supplies, papers and possibly yucky food comes how in a bag from school. For families with multiple kids, this is repeated over and over. Many of us are too busy to do something or too overwhelmed.  Help is here!

 

Define what is precious

Through many years of working with parents, it is hard to know what is defined as precious.  There are multiple scribbles, holiday place mats, spelling quizzes, prolific art work, macaroni necklaces and science boards.  There is a massive compilation of stuff! By defining what is precious before you begin helps you sort through the papers and stuff.

My definition of precious may not match your definition. It is an emotional attachment depending on many things.  Try to drill down this definition. Here are my thoughts.

  • Artwork that shows personality, effort, and originality.
  • Paper work that shows accomplishment and originality.

This gives you a lot of open ended options for you.  You can best decide with a little thought ahead of getting your work started.

 

Sort and edit

Sorting and editing are difficult. Many times it depends on how long it has been between the arrival of the papers, the amount of papers and the way you are sorting. Pace yourself and set up bins to sort into as a first pass on organizing.  Label the bins to be clear what goes where.

  • If your art is a combination of all your kiddos’ stuff, sort first into bins that are named by child.
  • Next group art by time period, such as pre-school, elementary, middle school and high school. Add summer camp and art school if necessary.
  • Assess how precious the art is for you to keep.

 

Organize and Display

There are many options to organize, display and share your kiddo’s art. It helps to know what you want as the end result. Your vision can guide what you keep and how you want to organize the materials that remain.

  • Take a photo or scan the keepsake and create a coffee table art book. This is by far the most fun and popular. It is easy to keep on a bookshelf.
  • Send art work and papers off to grandparents or other special family friends.
  • Keep the keepsakes in a large fed ex box by year in the top of a closet.
  • Keep the art in a portfolio under a bed, in the back of a closet.
  • For a monthly art rotation, set up a “clothesline” with 6 clothespins on an wall in their bedroom. Another Create a “gallery wall” in your kiddo’s room for an art display area.
  • Use a file tote for each child and a expandable folder for each school year.

 

Maintain Your Organization

Maintaining your organization takes practice. Start by gathering your kiddos’ art and papers each week in your Command Center. That is the hub of all active papers in your home. Have a slot for each kiddo’s stuff and have them drop it in weekly.  After a month, go over the items and share what was special. This is a great time to display or edit.  It prevents a year’s worth of editing at one time.  Items can be moved to an auxiliary space to keep until the end of the year. Each summer plan to create your special keepsake item or move all the items to archive storage.  If you are able to sort quarterly, that still keeps your routine together.

 

Apps to help

There are several options to help you with organizing your kiddos’ stuff. These work a variety of ways to help you document, scan and do the next steps.

 

What’s best about sorting, editing, and organizing these keepsakes is the joy you have in seeing your kids’ skills, strengths and talents!

What to Organize Now Back to School Online or In Person

back to school

 

This Fall during Back to School time we are again challenged with the uncertainties of online or in person school.  Among the challenges ahead in this situation are work from home and school at home, anxiety about illness and gauging your kids’ academic success balanced with social interaction. Facing these unprecedented times we can be intentional with organized study areas dedicated to learning and forming good habits and consistent routines. Kids needs these certainties to do their best work. As with all organizing, there must be a space and a routine that work together to accomplish your goals.

 

Dedicate a learning space

Whether your children attend school in person or online, they will need a dedicated study area to work.  Many makeshift areas were created this spring. Now is the time to set these areas up for success.

  • Partner with your kids as you coach them and help them be accountable for their academic success. Everyone has their own reasons to be successful at school and hearing these helps you as a parent frame your discussions.  Discuss the positive value of a dedicated learning space and how this helps achieve success.
  • Choose your dining room or kitchen table. These are areas you can supervise while doing your work as well. If you need multiple spaces for your kids, think about other options in your home. The living room or home office can be part of a learning space rotation.
  • Add a cart to hold books and supplies. Supplies can be easily accessed and organized with a 3 tier cart.
  • Add headphones for kids to listen to classical music and block distractions.
  • Set a routine study time.  For online school, begin in the morning and take breaks for lunch and recess. For homework start after a snack and work around dinner.

Create a space that limits distractions and create clarity. For families and kids with ADHD, think about setting up body doubling in your learning space. Body doubling is where two people work parallel. Your home office can have an extra seat or extra folding table to work in this fashion.

 

Develop good routines

There are many important routines associated with school success. Calendaring with your planner promotes good time management and improved productivity.  The best tool for a student is a week at a glance calendar. No matter how big or small, all assignments need to be written in the planner. Students consolidate online or in person assignments to their calendar to see all their assignments together. A week at a glance calendar gives kids the opportunity to plan completing assignments and studying for tests. Have your students  highlight long term assignments and break these into manageable chunks through the week or month. Calendaring  and writing stuff down is the best way to get the grades your child wants.

  • Good routines include exercise, healthy eating and self care.  Your kids and you need a bedtime that gives you all the rest you need. Having a central technology hub offers everyone the chance to recharge their devices and sleep well.  During your family meeting, talk about how to set these guidelines into motion. These are the routines that become life skills for us all.
  • Routines thrive when we help ourselves be accountable. That is tracking our success and tabulating how long we have been keeping consistent.  We want to keep the “chain” of successes moving forward daily.  Also, making the routines visual with notes and charts helps us remember each step. We may have a lot to keep in mind so a chart helps us track each step.  The chart can be digital or paper, just so to keep these details top of mind.

Families with ADHD will find developing good routines to be the most difficult part of work, school and life.  Start small and work in increments. Tag on a routine to an existing routine. Use praise and positivity as rewards for success. If at first you don’t succeed, re-examine where this fell apart.

 

What to organize now for Back to School reminds us, that while there are many things we don’t know and can’t know, there are many things we can do. We can set into motion the positive elements of success.

 

 

COVID-19 Making Your Time at Home Productive and Peaceful

home productive and peaceful

 

With the self imposed or CDC required time at home, you are thinking you will be at home for a prolonged period of time.  We live day to day because there is so much information coming at us and there is not much that is certain right now.  Let’s take this time to take care of ourselves, those around us and our community.  Using our time at home wisely helps us feel positive and productive.

  • Think self care and putting your own oxygen mask on first.  That includes keeping your routines going well. That is going to bed early for rest, eating healthy, and exercising. Remember, if you are sick to stay home and take care of yourself.  Keep these routines going even after this crisis passes. It’s a jump start to what we all want for a healthy life. I am biking and walking daily to keep fit and keep calm.
  • Take time to relax and time to reset. There is a lot on our minds! We have long to do lists, anxiety about health and family and work, and many decisions to make each day.  Having time for prayer and meditation helps.  Spiritual reading or time for meditation daily helps you sort through what is on your mind and get a bigger picture. On your phone, you can check out Headspace or the Mindfulness app. Both are free for use on your devices. Research shows how stress affects our immunity to illness.
  • Organizing helps us love what we have and create serenity in our homes.  Start small with a spot in your home to declutter.  It might be your desk or a drawer in your home office where you are working from home.  I have been peeking into drawers and letting go of what is not necessary. If you are feeling ambitious, start sorting your digital photos.  It’s a project that will bring you joy.
  • Connecting makes a difference right now. Reach out by text, phone or email to say hello, thinking of you and check on your connections. Keep especially connected to our older friends and community members by reaching out and checking on them.  Drop off what they need and be of service.
  • Give your brain a boost. This is a great time to learn. There are learning opportunities everywhere from Coursera to podcasts.  Keeping cognitively active keeps us engaged and moving forward to our goals for this year.
  • Working from home and your kiddos are schooling at home? Set up times for work and breaks. Creating and posting a schedule helps everyone know the plan for the day.  Make it fun with a schedule that includes breaks for recess for everyone.
  • Allocate and adhere to screen time and social media time for yourself and your kiddos. Mindless surfing leads to negative emotions at times.  Keep a common charging spot where everyone charges during certain times.
  • Distract everyone with 60s style family fun. Host a family art day, family dance party and family game night.  Having a new way to engage with your family makes for tons of fun!  Our newest family games include charades and Sync Up
  • Remember Keep Calm and Carry On. We are a resilient, resourceful and smart community. Sharing that positivity and kindness are the hallmarks of these crisis.  We are all in this together.

5 Small Starts for Emergency Preparedness

small ways to prepare for an emergency

 

September is Emergency Preparedness Month for good reason.  We have faced emergencies for many years and these seem to be more frequent and more intense. At the same time emergencies frighten and overwhelm us.  Now’s the time for us to button up our resources and start small.  Some of the simplest ways to prepare are the best and here are 5 small starts to begin.

Family contacts

Online connections are easy until the power or cell service goes out.  Create a spreadsheet of family contacts and print it out. Include in your sheet cell and home phones, email addresses, physical addresses and other contact information.  Keep this spreadsheet in a kitchen or office top drawer to access.

 

Create an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit  (EFFAK)

Finances and access to funds seem easy, like simply heading to the ATM for funds. That is not always the case in an emergency.  Begin preparing your Emergency Financial Fist Aid Kit with these instructions. Most importantly, keep $500 in cash, in dollar, five dollar, ten dollar and twenty dollar bills.  Funds are hard to access if there is no power.

 

Prep your Emergency Supply Kits

Prepare kits for all the places you will be, whether at home, at work or in the car.  Your kits should include supplies for a minimum of three days worth of food and water.  Other essentials include battery radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid, medicines and toiletries. Refresh these kits annually.

 

Family plan

Family plans can be communicated during family meetings.  Talking about the plan makes it less scary and easy to accomplish. Your family plan should include where to meet if there is a fire in your home, where to meet if a disaster happens while your kids are at school and you are at work, and where to meet if you are separated.

 

Helpful apps

If you have cell access, there are 2 helpful apps to download.

FEMA: weather alerts, safety tips and shelter information

American Red Cross: a variety of apps including personal and pet first aid, blood, and hero care

 

You and your family will have peace of mind knowing you have started preparing.

Being Organized and Prepared For A Family Emergency

organized and prepared for a family emergency

 

Family emergencies strike unfortunately routinely, from a broken arm to a heart attack. Family health crises are among the most stressful for all of us.   The best way to face an emergency is by being organized and prepared.  Your lists will be what you rely on for information. These preparations can help you create the best plan prior to when an emergency happens.

 

Your Medical Health List

Each doctor you meet requests a list of health challenges, presciptions and supplments.  Make this list easy to access by keeping it digitally in your Notes app, Evernote, or other smart phone app. The list can be shared with a family member in case of emergency.  For health challenges, list the year and what happened (surgery, treatment).  For presciptions and supplements, list the item, what that is treating, and the dosage. If you have a paper list, you can take a photo to keep in your phone as well.

 

Your Medical Plan and Doctor List

With frequent changes to medical plans and doctors, keep a list of your specialists, their phone numbers and their specialty in your smart phone contacts.  Track your annual visits by making appointments that coincide with a birthday, a season (fall, winter, spring summer) or another significant milestone to remind you.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in keeping on track with annual visits to medical and dental professionals.   Your own health care is as important as those in your family.

 

Ongoing health concerns

  • Organizing your medical records is an important step for chronic illness. Keep a notebook to bring to your doctor’s office to keep current discussions and treatments.  You will want to refer to this regularly with notes and updates.  Organize your medical history in a file folder, by doctor or illness.

 

  • Organizing your medications is one part of your ongoing health concerns. Fill day of the week, time of day pill organizers and set alarms to remind you to take medication. Place pills at the point of where they are taken, such as by your bed in the evening or in the kitchen for morning.

 

  • When it comes to the many facets of an ongoing illness, share responsibility with family members.  When my mom faced her illness, my responsibility was health care and my sister took on financial responsibilities. Confer weekly on these responsibilities so everyone is up to date.  You can also create a google sheet to share information with family. Coordination is key to family communication.

 

Support for you and your family

Be ready for ongoing support for yourself and your self care. Friends and family will ask how they can help and be sure to give everyone a small responsibility. It can include setting up a Care Calendar for meals and transportation. Having someone attend the appointments can be helpful in capturing notes and keeping strong during the treatments. That support can be as small as dropping off a gallon of milk to being a listener when you are sad, anxious and afraid.

 

Take good care of yourself with good sleep and good nutrition. Get in bed on time and eat regular, balanced meals.  It’s easy to get off track with both of these during a crisis.

 

Family emergencies are part of life transitions. We age and life happens. Our family ages and abilities diminish.  Be organized and prepared to meet these transitions with positive actions.

How to Simplify Back to School Transition

 

Back to school transition

 

Back. to. school. It’s time when we reset, organize, plan and set new routines.  It’s a transition from lots of free time to structure and deadlines.  Maybe transition is more difficult for you and your family?  We can simplify this transition with these tips.

 

Simple calendars and planners

Families + school time = dates and deadlines. Make it easy for you and your family and a calendar everyone can access. Google calendar is available on all devices to connect families to what’s due when, what needs to be purchased, and when will the parents be available.  Encourage your family to all populate the calendar during your family meeting.

 

Simple labels

Stuff gets lost and families don’t know where stuff goes. Make it easy with a label.  Label school binders, devices, lunch boxes and clothes. Label your pantry where lunch fixings are found.

 

Simple bedtime routines

The age old question of preparation for a shift in bedtimes. Parent ask, “do we start a week out with earlier bedtime or just have the kids crash the first week of school from exhaustion?” Only you know the kiddos in your home best. Take care of yourself with your own earlier bedtime the week before school starts. If you are well rested, everything will be better!

 

Simple laundry

Whittle down the loads this year with fewer clothes for everyone. Laundry and closet organizing work best with less.  How many items for each of you?  Start with just 7 sets of clothes that coordinate through a capsule wardrobe. It will save money and time!

 

Simple mornings

  • Family has been getting up later and later all summer. This transition is one of the biggest!  Getting up on time for school starts with everyone having an alarm clock.  Be sure these are set correctly the first few weeks of school, then practice getting up just a smidge earlier than you think.  Make morning simple by getting lunch and what you are wearing together the night before.
  • Place analog clocks in transition spots throughout your home. An analog clock helps you see time elapsing and helps you be on time.  Clocks are best in bathrooms, bedrooms, and by the exit and entry doors.
  • Use music to keep everyone energized and positive.  A morning playlist can be played at a low volume.

 

All transitions take time.  Celebrate the first day of school success!   Give yourself the opportunity to create a positive transition by scheduling less on the first weekends school is open. This extra time translates to more rest and more time like summer with less structure.  Keep spirits and energy high with family fun bike rides, ice cream sundae parties or family game night. Expect a few tears and set aside time to acknowledge the toughness of the first few weeks of school because of this transition.

 

More ideas on ADHD here in my newsletter.