Back-to-school time in August and early September are some of the most stressful weeks of the year for working parents. Settling kids back into the school-day routine, while the adjust to new teachers, new peers, new academic demands—and balancing all that with your own work demands—is no easy task. Finding the balance between work and family is a timeless challenge and an ongoing learning process. Nobody has all the answers, but with good planning you can make these transitional weeks and the whole school year much easier for yourself and your kids.
Schedule Time With the Kids
A common worry for working parents is that they’re staying sufficiently involved in their children’s lives. If you have a demanding career, time for that involvement doesn’t happen by chance. You have to carve out that time in your busy week. If your children are younger, you may elect to volunteer in their classrooms a few days each month. If your children are older, you may choose to get involved with one of their extracurricular activities. It may make sense for you to bundle your volunteer time into a few personal days scattered through the school year. Focus on the events and activities that are most important to your children.
In the day-to-day, one of the most pressing challenges is managing homework. Setting aside a “family study hall” time for the whole family can help you find the balance and be sure your kids are finding success. Make it part of the evening routine, either before or after dinner. While the kids work on their homework you can either assist them or work on your own projects. At the end of the “study hall,” you reward yourselves with a fun activity. This approach models good project management skills and work-life balance for yourself and your children.
Prepare in Advance
Keep the morning routine as streamlined and simple as possible by preparing as much as possible the night before. Make breakfasts and pack lunches, for the kids and for yourself. Choose outfits and have them ready to go. If your kids have been staying up late all summer, get them back on a bedtime routine and school-year sleep schedule a few days or a week in advance of the first day.
You can also make the afternoon and evening routine a little easier with meal planning and preparation. Set up a rotation of favorites and theme nights. Use the weekends to shop or to make and freeze a few entrees and sauces.
Make Friends with Technology
You have a wealth of choices when it comes to apps for your family calendar. Google Calendar is easy, free, and accessible on all your family’s devices. You can set reminders and keep track of ball games, concerts, teacher conferences, homework deadlines, you name it, and it allows you to integrate your work calendar easily, so everything is in one place. For household management, you can use a chore app to delegate tasks to your partner and the kids.
Twitter and other social media feeds are increasingly popular ways for teachers and school administrators to communicate broad messages to parents and students. Many schools use apps such as Edmodo and Google Classroom for instruction, and both of these options allow parents to “enroll” in the class, making it easy to track homework and projects for your kids. Email remains a good choice for secure individual communications with teachers. In some ways email is preferable to telephone conferencing because you can send a message at any time of day and it gives you a concrete record of what you talked about with the teacher.
Don’t Go It Alone
If you have a partner, it’s obviously important to communicate with him or her to be sure you’re dividing the responsibilities for managing your household and children as they go through the school year. Friends, neighbors, and extended family can also pitch in when you need last-minute support, such as a pick-up when you have a late meeting.
Back-to-school is also a good time to introduce new responsibilities into your children’s routines. Assigning age-appropriate tasks for each of them teaches them new skills and time management along with taking the weight off you.
Lastly, your work colleagues are key allies. Many of them have children as well, so good communication and flexibility can allow you to take care of one another as you adjust to the school year schedule. You can delegate some of your responsibilities, and you can pick up some of their tasks as needed. Look into flexible scheduling and work-from-home options if they’re available as well.
As you manage your work schedule, you and your colleagues may find you can adjust your schedules by outsourcing tasks that support your primary goals. If records retrieval is one of those tasks, The Records Company is here to help you gain the flexibility you need to balance the demands of your job with the demands of your family at back-to-school time. Contact us or register today.