So anyone besides me feeling like they blinked and it is already mid-September? Weren’t we all just reveling in the unscheduled hours of summer!?! Well, now that our family has had a few full weeks of adjusting to the chaotic back to school grind, it felt like the right time for me to take a pause and do a quick inventory of what is and isn’t working well for our family in the new school year. While doing this exercise I realized there is a small handful of valuable practices that just keep consistently working well for us and today I want to share one of those with you. It is the practice of having my kids keep their own individual written calendars.I have long been a huge fan of a written calendar and I would venture to guess most adults managing a busy household are utilizing one. I used to keep just my own calendar up to date and then when we held our family meetings (and this is another one of the practices that seems to consistently contribute to our family’s success. Click here to a previous blog post I wrote on the topic if you are interested) I would share the upcoming weeks activities and we would discuss, but it was not like I could expect anyone to retain all that information for themselves. Once I got each of my children their own calendar that they would bring to the family meeting and fill out with the activities and happenings that pertained to them for the week I started to see some big changes and awesome benefits. A brief summary of the major benefits I see from utilizing this practice are below.
- Less morning madness. When my kids have their own calendar filled out with their daily activities/appointments I spend less of my already rushed mornings with kids following me around asking, “What is happening today?” In fact, when they ask that all I have to do is just calmly ask, “Did you check your calendar?”…and off they go. Also, the kids can check their calendars at night and plan for the next day by pulling together sport/activity items they might need ahead of time. It also has majorly reduced the household drama over clothing/uniforms they need clean being stuffed in the bottom of laundry baskets. If they realize something didn’t get washed the night before they need it I can do something about it, 15 minutes before it is time to leave in the morning, not so much.
- Reduction of Homework Meltdowns. As a mama to middle-schoolers the calendar is a life saver when it comes to homework meltdowns. I think whenever kids hear that something isn’t due for a week or so they feel like they have all the time in the world to complete it, but as we all know that isn’t the case and Sunday night you have a stressed-out kid with an entire project left to do. If they have a calendar where they can see that say Thursday and Friday their evenings are already packed with after-school sports or activities and they have a weekend basketball tournament then they are able to realize for themselves (and as an added bonus without parental nagging!!!) that they have to get that homework done earlier in the week. This idea also works great for kids who have instrument practice, community service hours, AR reading points, or any of the other various things they may need to accomplish on a bigger picture deadline. For my family specifically, all three of my kids play an instrument through their school music program and they have to practice for hours each week. As soon as we complete our family meeting and they have all their activities recorded, they immediately then go back through their planner and write out when they will have free time to get their practice hours in.
- Cultivating Time Management Skills. One of the best ways you can set your child up for instant success in life is to help them cultivate strong time management skills and utilizing their calendar is a great way to practice. Just the simple exercise of writing out a week of appointments and activities helps them to understand and appreciate just how much effort is needed when keeping oneself on schedule. When they plan and log scheduled times for tasks like homework, instrument practice, etc. this further enhances their personal organizational skills and teaches them to practice staying on task. Also, when they find themselves with days with multiple things that need to be accomplished they get to learn to prioritize as they figure out what the most important tasks are to accomplish each day.
- Teaching Personal Responsibility. When you take the responsibility of filling out and monitoring the calendar off of you and transfer that onto your child it goes a long way in helping kids to realize that they are capable of learning to monitor and care for themselves. I feel like there are so many ways children are micromanaged these days and micromanagement can erode their confidence in themselves. By showing them that as their parent we expect them to be in charge of filling out their own calendar, checking it often and take an active role in managing their time you are sending them the message that you trust and believe they have the ability to learn do things for themselves. Of course it goes without saying that there are going to be mistakes and disappointments, but childhood, before there are grades going on official transcripts or jobs one can be fired from, is the perfect time for us parents to allow these to happen and then help them learn how to handle and adjust in the future.
- Comfort and Security Provided to Our Children. Without advance planning on how we are going to spend our time we can find our family living in a constantly reactive state. Living like this can increase anyone’s stress level, but it can be especially hard on children. Kids are still learning to manage emotions and reactions and living with routine and structure gives them a sense of security and allows them to feel safe. Utilizing a calendar allows them feel like they have been made aware of what is happening. It allows time for upcoming events to be discussed and gives them ample opportunity to ask questions if they feel they need to. Having advance notice of what is upcoming also helps all children, but especially introverted or anxious children, have the extra time they may need to get mentally prepared for things.
- Preservation of Family Time and Down Time. We live in a crazy, busy world and I feel like so often our families end up sacrificing things they really want to do together or downtime they truly need because they think there just “isn’t enough time in the day”. If you are asking your child to keep a calendar for themselves, once they have entered all their necessary commitments, appointments, assignments they get to look at exactly what free time they have and make choices. The calendar allows them to appreciate and understand prioritizing things that they want and need. For example, a couple of my kids really like to get one weekend morning with a few hours of downtime to do some screens and avoid being rushed. I know they have that in the back of their mind when they schedule their instrument practice time and try to add more in during the week to free up time on the weekend. Also, our family tries to discuss and plan events that we all want to do together and get them into the calendar because that way if an invite from a friend, sports team or a conflict arises we feel good about the fact that we had this family time planned and we typically feel confident in saying no to whatever it is that is creating a scheduling conflict.
So as you can see the practice of maintaining a personal calendar isn’t just a practice that should be reserved for adults. It is an awesome way to help kids learn valuable time, life and self-management skills all while contributing to the reduction of stress and strengthening of connection for your family as a whole.