Labor Day in the U.S. marks the unofficial end of summer. Originally Labor Day was organized to celebrate the American labor movement and the economic contribution that working folks were making to the economy. Now it's a three-day weekend that seems to indicate that "labor" will gear up and it's time to, once again, get serious about work. Summer vacations are over and the school year begins. It's a time that many consider the start of a new year; a new beginning.
More meetings are scheduled, decisions that were put off because of summer can now be considered and job searches begin in earnest. Family schedules rev up as calendars become dense with sports, dance, gymnastics, music lessons and after school activities effecting a family's time together, especially at mealtime.
Around the "official" new year, resolutions abound. The discussions of vows of change take place in magazines, newspapers, talk shows, social media, amongst friends and more. Those who set resolutions tend to be looking at ways to self-improve, primarily focused on weight loss, health, exercise, the cessation of smoking or a variety of "bad" habits. In addition, the desire to get organized, be a happier, more patient, "better" person, or become financially stronger can be added to the list of possible resolutions.
September is also a new beginning. It has a different feel. There's a different kind of energy. It's time to get back to business. And for those with children, it's the return of the hustle and bustle of getting everyone out the door in the morning with homework, school projects, signed forms to be returned to the school, equipment at the ready. And it goes on.
Is the hustle and bustle you experience a bad thing? Does it causes undue stress that, in reality, can be lessened? Do you embrace the pace or are you looking for ways to drop it down a notch or two?
If you want to make things different, whether you have children or not, you will most likely need to make some tough choices of what is important to you and/or your family. It may be that your child plays only one sport per season, takes only one dance class per week or you resign from a committee or board that you are currently on. The key is to understand where your time and your family's time is going and make sure schedules are doable, realistic and hopefully fun.
Take an inventory of your time and your family's time.
- Does the quantity and quality of time you spend in various activities align with the things that are important in your life?
- Are your life's priorities at this moment in time clear to you and to your family?
- Are you and your family in agreement about those priorities?
- Is there enough time for homework, when your child works best, isn't exhausted and can remain focused?
- Does your family have unstructured time?
Here are some practical steps you can take to take the reins in the September new year.
1. Make a list of all family activities, including those that you would like to be doing. Estimate the amount of time they take; including commuting back and forth as well as the time at the activity.
2. Using a calendar, map out the schedule of activities. Look at the calendar and use your ability to anticipate. Is the schedule doable or going to create stress? Prioritize the list of activities and their importance to your children and determine what activity or activities can or should be removed.
3. Regularly sit down with your sons and/or daughters and go over their daily assignments and projects. Help them get in the habit of effectively using their assignment book or planning tool when age-appropriate. You are showing support by discussing how they can accomplish what they need to do; breaking things down into small, bite-sized doable tasks and scheduling them into their planner. You will better understand their assignments, deadlines and possible obstacles in completing school work. You are also teaching them an important life skill, planning, that they will benefit from for years to come.
4. With calendar in hand, have a weekly "family" meeting to review the week's events, ensure no activities have been missed and all can be coordinated.
Taking these steps is sending a positive message to your family: planning will keep them focused on their priorities and help them throughout their lives. Make this "new year" the best year for you and your family.