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5 Ways to Get Your Family Back on Schedule

5 Ways to Get Your Family Back on Schedule

After months of coronavirus quarantine, it may feel impossible to ever get your family back on schedule. Here's where to start.

Quarantine has been especially hard on families with kids. No more school, canceled extracurriculars, playdates off the table, and now, limited camp options. After months of pressing on without a solid family schedule to adhere to, it may be a little unnerving to think about getting back into a routine. But this could actually be the perfect time to rethink your family schedule.

Fit Family Time into the Schedule

If your family led a busy life pre-quarantine, then the lockdown meant a slow down in ways you may never have experienced before.

“Children whose schedules are often overbooked with extracurricular activities became empty overnight, and even now are only slowly filling up with briefer, mostly virtual commitments,” says Courtney DeAngelis, PsyD, clinical postdoctoral fellow at the Columbia Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders in Westchester. “This has allowed for much more opportunity and flexibility to spend time together as a family unit.” Take advantage of the time free of competing distractions and think about what new hobbies or interests you’ve shared as a family. Have you been kicking off each Saturday morning with a family bike ride, instead of organized sports that you were always in a stressed-out rush to get out the door? Consider sitting on the sidelines of team sports this fall and doing some activities as a family instead. Has your family enjoyed cooking dinner together every night? Pencil in more free evenings so that you can continue spending time at home as a family, even when it’s not mandated.   

“As we transition to the next few phases we should remember how nice it was to have the extra family time, sit down for more meals together, talk to each other every day about how things are going and how your children are coping with how the world has changed for them,” says Aimée Kahn M.D., M.P.H. at Crystal Run Healthcare.

Keep your Family Schedule Light

While tapping into more family time, think about keeping an overall lighter family schedule for the near future. Some kids may be super eager to jump back into all their activities, but now is a good time to sit down and chat about what’s really worth your time. Is it worth rushing from soccer practice to a piano lesson in one afternoon, or could you do one activity in the fall and one in the spring? This kind of increased flexibility could help you figure out what’s most meaningful to your child and your family. 

“Allow yourself to manage some of your own anxiety that your child needs to be occupied by many structured events, or should return to everything they were enrolled in before the quarantine,” DeAngelis says. “There is great promise in personal growth and development when simply spending time together as a family.”

Chat with your Children

Speaking with your kids early and often about the different phases of reopening and the transitions your family will be making can help keep the lines of communication open. “Creating a safe space for them to relay ideas, dreams, hopes, concerns, and fears is important,” Kahn says. These conversations will help your family better prepare for what’s to come, but be sure to only share information that’s finalized so you can keep expectations in check.

You can also normalize for children that they may experience a range of emotions when resuming interactions and activities, DeAngelis says. Check in often with your kids to see how they’re feeling and coping with this new set of changes. And let them see how you’re doing by modeling authentic moods while trying to keep a positive attitude.

“The more we can continue to adapt and adjust the easier our children will have a time doing the same,” Kahn says.

Carefully Choose What to Change

Changing habits is rarely easy. But rather than forcing a stressful transition back into your old and likely imperfect family schedule, DeAngelis suggests choosing 1 to 2 areas to focus on at a time. “For example, if getting your sleep schedule back on track is top priority, consider changing bedtime by 15 minutes earlier every Sunday, and push it back by another 15 minutes each Wednesday to allow your body time to adjust to these more subtle changes,” she says. Do this until you’ve reached your current ideal bedtime.

Be Patient

We’re all eager to return to life as we knew it, but try to be patient when getting back into the swing of things. This is especially true when it comes to school in the fall. “Placing pressure to be ‘back to normal’ and fully productive will only serve to increase anxiety,” DeAngelis says. So look at how your school is working to meet the needs of its children and ask for flexibility where necessary. You may want to ask teachers or administrators for some short-term accommodations to make your kids feel more comfortable in the school environment. Depending upon how your child seems to be adjusting, you may also consider reaching out to the school psychologist to come up with some ideas early on.

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Whitney C. Harris

Author: Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer and NYMetroParents' Manhattan and Westchester calendar editor. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, NY, with her husband, a toddler, and a dog. See More

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