Many of us will have set out resolutions and goals for big new changes for the New Year. However, for our family to run smoothly, and to keep stress to the minimum, sometimes what we need are not big mountainous goals but just a few, small consistent tweaks to our everyday routines – it is such organisation tips that can really make all the difference to having a stress free and happy family life (well as much as realistically possible). Here’s how getting it sorted will make all the difference to a smooth family year.

These routines work wonders with families that have children that are a little out of the box – so will work superbly well with all children.

Top organisation tips for sorting your family routines:

1. Homework

You may vehemently agree, or disagree, with homework, but for most schools and children it is a reality. If homework is a reality (and an every single-day for every single school day of the year reality) we may as well accept it and make it as enjoyable as possible. Yes you read that correctly – let’s make homework enjoyable if we have to do it.

1. Set up a homework station at home before school starts. This station may be a place, a desk or just a box that has every possible thing your child may need for their homework: pencils, blue pens, red pens, black pens, rulers, paper, stapler…

2. This station is only to be used for homework so everything has its place and stays in its place. If you are using a homework box, the box goes away as soon as the homework is finished.

3. Have a special drink and special snack that is made only when doing homework, or when homework is finished.

4. If your child finds homework tricky do the following:

  • Make yourself a cup of tea (I’m English) or a cold drink.
  • Sit down and read the homework through WITHOUT your child (otherwise your child will be bored stiff before you have even started on the homework).
  • Think through a system to do the homework in the most sensible, organised way.
  • Chop up the homework into small chunk size bites. “We’ll do this for 5 minutes and then this for 7 minutes.”
  • I can hear you say: “Oh but shouldn’t my child being doing the homework all by his or herself? Maybe – maybe not. Some children need an adult to model to them how to chunk up their work into smaller bites. Some children will need more support than others. There are not enough hours in the day for teachers to make different homework for all children – so parents will have to help their child that struggles.
  • Always try and keep the BIG PICTURE in sight by asking this question: “What simple steps am I modelling for my child?” It could be you are modelling:
    • Reading work through before starting
    • Having an organised space
    • Focusing for 7 minutes and then having a rest
    • Controlling frustration when work is not understood
    • All the above skills are just as important as the work itself – sometimes more so.

5. Don’t worry about what you think you should or should not be doing with homework – follow the needs of your child and aim that over the week your child has learnt one thing about resilience, persistence, organisation or some other useful life skill.

2. Communication with the teacher

Having a relationship with your child’s teacher is a key ingredient to your child having a good year at school.

Before your teacher gets super busy, make an appointment to see the teacher and ask the teacher what would be three things that you could do at home with your child that you think would be most helpful for the year coming up.

If your child has learning differences, communicate with an intent to work collaboratively with the teacher.
When you communicate with your child’s teacher, talk in SPECIFICS:

  • What are three things I can do to help my child at home?
  • What dates are the next tests and assessments happening?
  • What would be the area that my child is struggling most at in the classroom?

3. After school activities

A day at school is the equivalent to a hard day at work for us adults. The last thing many of us want to do after work is drive to numerous activities, yet we expect our children to be able to do this.

School success is richly dependent on being able to focus and concentrate. Children can focus and concentrate best when they have had lots of downtime for their brain, play, healthy food and sleep.

A child that comes home from school and plays a little, snacks a little and potters a little may look like they are not “ achieving’ anything but they are winding down from their day. This winding down enables them to sleep well, have low stress and anxiety, which in turn means they can wind up for learning and life the following day.

As a specialist working with hundreds of children what I see over and over again is that children up to about twelve years of age are taken to numerous amounts of after school activities, so that by the time they are teenagers they are bored of them. The time that most of us as parents would love our children to have hobbies, sports and interests – the teenagers – many of our children give up all their activities – they are over them!

So, some useful indicators can be:

  • If you feel like a taxi driver – you probably are one. Let some activities go.
  • Yes, your child probably would like to do dance, drama, chess, music, sports – so put a family rule around activities: in our family everyone can choose two activities each… or whatever suits you). Your child may do a range of activities – but just not all at once.
  • If your child is complaining about, or looking, tired – cut back on the activities.
  • Another useful way to organise your week is to reflect on the family life back to front. So start with the end point – perhaps a happy, relaxed family, and think: what do we have to do more of and less of to keep this balance? Being pro-active about homework, communicating with your child’s teacher and tweaking those after school activities and replacing some busyness for down time …are some simple every day places to start.
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