If you are a parent it's probably chaos time; school supplies, end of summer vacation, planning after- school activities for the kids and going back to work! Here are some tips to start the school year off on the right foot. The key word is to establish routines (morning, evening and bedtime)
Establish a morning routine right from the beginning of the year before things get out of control, not just for the kids, but for you as well. Do what works best. I personally like to take my shower in the morning, as I find that it helps me wake up. I prepare my lunch and clothing the night before, so I have time for breakfast in the morning. Leaving everything for the morning is generally not a good idea as time is usually very limited. Remember that if the adults feel overwhelmed and disorganized, so will the kids. Creating an action plan doesn’t have to feel restrictive, it can be fun. It’s about the perception. If you include your kids, they are more likely to follow the plan than if they feel that you made up the rules for them. Take time to sit down and make a poster of the morning routine and put it somewhere easily accessible. Agenda and Calendar
I'm sure that at work you have an agenda, whether it is electronic or on paper. You probably also have a family calendar, so what is missing? Probably something very important - YOU. Does it contain your personal activities and time, for example to exercise, even if you don't go to the gym, yoga, weight management program, etc.? If it's written down there is an implied commitment on your part. If you put it on the family calendar that commitment is even greater because your entire family is aware of your plan. Remembering to include yourself in the family calendar will be worth it in the long run. Don't be afraid to assign responsibilities and involve every member of the family. You might be surprised by the results. Remember, you are not alone.
You might think you don't have time for exercise or activities, but it's all a matter of priorities. While your son or daughter is at soccer practice, instead of sitting in the bleachers why not walk around the field a few times? Voila! Bring a book to read or do a guided meditation. In the morning, park your car at the far end of the parking lot and take the stairs. At lunchtime, walk around the building a few times. At break time, take a few deep breaths. It all adds up, and you will feel better for it. At first, it may be difficult, but once it becomes a habit you won't even realize that you are doing it. As an added bonus you will most likely gain more energy as well.
Organizing your environment for success
It is important to optimize your environment for success. For example, if you intend to read and do a journal before going to bed, keep your book and journal on your night table. If your goal is to lose weight, keep a bowl of fruits or nuts on your counter and hide the cookies so when you come home from work you will go for the fruits or nuts. The same thing goes for the gym bag. Make sure it’s in the car the night before.
Lunches and Dinners
There a few ways to plan for lunches and dinners. You could do meal prep the weekend before, but that takes time from your precious time off. What I like to do when I prepare my dinner is to make extra portions and freeze them, so I have healthy lunches ready in advance, without any extra effort. If I just want a salad for lunch, I prepare it at the same time as my dinner the night before. Whatever I choose for lunch, I put it into my lunchbox, along with snacks, drinks, etc. and put the whole thing in the fridge until morning. Recruit your kids to help prepare their lunches as you prepare dinner. This becomes one less thing to do in the morning and it doesn’t require more time as you have to prepare dinner anyway.
Homework and Evenings
It is important that kids have a dedicated time for homework. Remember that when you come home from work you usually want to ‘take 5’. The same is true for kids. Give them some down time before they start their homework. One strategy I like to teach is to start with the longest, hardest task first, then the second hardest and so on. The rational is that as the child gets tired, he/she will have the easiest, fastest tasks at the end. Using a fun timer is another idea that works well. If the child knows when they will finish it is easier to reach their goal. I also like to give children a short break between subjects to get water, go to the toilet, or just get up and stretch so that they have a clear mind to start the next task. It is also a good time to teach children refocusing techniques, like a breathing exercise. Try to include a wellness activity as well, whether it’s sports, TV, playing a game or reading. That goes for both adults and children. An evening routine is also important, so everyone knows what to expect. Weekends can be more relaxed. As a rule of thumb, if I don’t know what to expect and what is expected of me it is difficult to succeed. It is also important to allocate time to get ready for bedtime and not go to bed directly after an activity.
Mindfulness and Sleep
Your kids probably have a bedtime routine/ritual, but do you? Sleep is a very important activity for ensuring that throughout the day you are able to pay attention, maintain your energy and reduce your stress levels. Using the computer and drinking coffee before going to bed makes it that much more difficult to fall asleep. Try switching to a quiet activity at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Just like your kids, try going to bed at the same time every night, to develop a pattern. I have created a routine where I do my savouring and gratitude journal first, followed by a guided meditation. This is a good time to clear your mind, from the worries of the day (e.g. through a mindfulness activity) for a better sleep. I also rub a little lavender oil on my temples to help me relax. I used to play on my tablet in bed, but since I have put in place this routine, I sleep so much better.
Getting organized is not easy. It requires effort and commitment. The first few steps might be intimidating but they are also empowering.
Remember that if you are disorganized and overwhelmed it will be hard for the rest of the family to be calm and collected. If you don’t take care of yourself that is what your kids will see, learn and model. If even these tips make you a little overwhelmed and you find yourself struggling to implement them, just try one step at a time, or ask for help from a life coach.