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Building Downtime Into Your Family’s Schedule

Most families become overscheduled gradually. Children and adults may take on more and more activities until, one day, they realize they have too many. When this happens, it usually makes most sense to cut back a little at a time until you find a balance that will work for your family. Here are some tips:

Identify your priorities. You may find some activities are non-negotiable, such as going to family events, like weddings or religious services. If so, talk about these activities with your children, and explain why they are important. Work on determining what parts of your life are most important – school, your faith community, family, friends, sports, music, or the volunteer work that you do. Trying to fit all of these in may be difficult, but achieving a balance is important.

Keep in mind that everyone needs time alone and time with others. As you review your priorities, children may insist that they like spending all their time with friends. But children also need time alone to relax, unwind and learn to entertain themselves. Learning to feel comfortable alone is also a vital step towards independence.

Get everyone involved in making changes. Your children will be more likely to go along with changes if they have a say in them. A good way to do this is to have a family meeting to talk about what you’ve noticed – for example, that you never seem to have time as a family for some of the activities you used to enjoy. Then get everyone’s suggestions on how to achieve a solution.

Help everyone understand that downtime is important. If children are enjoying the activities that they are doing, they may not see that they also need time to relax. They may not consider that family time needs to be a priority. Explain why you need time together as a family.

Ask what kind of downtime each family member would like. You may long to go for walks after dinner or on family bike rides, but your children might prefer to play board games or make pancakes on Saturday mornings. Try to accommodate everyone’s interests – on a rotating basis, if needed.

Ask what each family member would be willing to give up or limit to create more downtime. If your children can’t cut back anywhere, you may need to get the ball rolling by offering to cut back on one of your activities to spend more time with them.

Look for creative ways to enable yourself to have more family time. Is there a neighborhood teen who would love to earn a little money by cutting your grass? Or would it be possible to work from home sometimes after the children are in bed so that you can be with them after school?

Keep track of your progress and celebrate success. Quick fixes aren’t likely to work if your family has been operating on overload for a long time. Instead, cut back gradually and review your progress periodically – for example, at a monthly family meeting. And don’t forget to celebrate even small successes!

This is the second in a three-part series of articles that asks, ‘Is Your Family Overscheduled?’ Read the previous article here.

Content provided in part by LifeWorks