I'm very excited to welcome a new guest contributor to Go West. Jenny Totman will be writing regularly about how to help your family live a more organized life. Totman is a teacher and librarian by training. Her business Green Years Organizing helps children and teens learn how to organize their stuff, space and time. Know of a topic you'd like Jenny to address in a future column? Write it in the comments section or send it to editor@gowestyoungmom.
Fall schedules are in full swing and the holidays are right around the corner. You might feel like your family is pulled in 10 different directions, and you rarely have time to eat dinner together, let alone coordinate schedules. Don’t fret! You can reconnect with your family and reduce stress by taking some time out of your week to plan. A little bit of planning goes a long way.
Adopting a weekly family planning meeting has many benefits for all involved and teaches important lifelong skills to your children. Still, you might be wondering how to convince your loved ones to participate in such a mundane task. It’s all in the preparation, presentation and the sell – everyone loves a party! Family meetings tend to be heavy and tense, so set the tone beforehand for a lighthearted exchange with positive vibes, yummy snacks and possibly some cocktails for you and your spouse. My children are young enough that popcorn and lollipops do the trick, but you probably know what will convince your family to join in the fun.
You Are Invited!
Who: Everyone in the family and anyone else who may play a large role in your daily activities like a grandparent or nanny.
What: Planning PARTY!
When: Weekly. Your family planning party should take about thirty minutes to an hour depending on what topics you decide to cover. Find a convenient time for everyone to meet. My family does our grocery shopping on Saturday mornings so Friday evenings naturally became the time for us to plan. It also works out that everyone is relaxed and happy for the week to be over.
Where: Wherever makes the most sense and is most comfortable for your family. Since we plan our menu and shopping list, we tend to meet in the kitchen. IPads, cell phones, and computers are handy tools when planning but can also be a huge distraction. You may want to come up with an agreement to limit electronic use to planning purposes only.
Why: Think of planning ahead as preventative maintenance. It enables you to foresee some of the issues that may pop up during the week that have the tendency to cause headaches and unneeded stress. Setting a weekly planning party is a great time to organize schedules and rides, discuss upcoming homework, projects and tests, create a healthy menu together, plan the shopping list, agree on chores, etc. Not only will planning as a family provide some stress relief, the activity will also teach your children short- and long-term planning strategies and teamwork. These parties also allow you to model skills such as keeping a planner or calendar and problem solving.
How: Once again, keep your planning sessions light and positive. Try not to use this time do discuss poor grades or hand out punishments. Give your children some choices and the ability to make some of the decisions. You want your kids to want to participate! Take a few minutes beforehand to plan your planning party and have all supplies ready to go when the family convenes. Encourage your family members to do the same. Finally, do your best to meet consistently and attempt to meet at the same time on the same day each week. Your family will get in the habit of preparing for and attending these get-togethers, and it will become a wonderful time for your family to connect.
Hopefully you can find the time and the willing participants to give a planning party a try. Just think how nice it would be to not have to make cupcakes at 10 p.m. for the bake sale tomorrow. You know, the one your child forgot to tell you about until today.
Jenny Totman is the owner of Green Years Organizing, which aims to help children and teens obtain the necessary organizational, time management, and study skills required to achieve academic and personal success. She lives in Geneva with her husband and two children and is committed to helping people get through “the green years” with less chaos, clutter and confusion.