Last week, I offered tips for making the morning easier I had thought morning was the toughest time to tackle, which is why I started there. As I started to think about after school, I realized this hour or so may be even tougher. Morning is tough because my kids are struggling to wake up and get into the groove of the day. Mornings are tough because of their issues. After school is tough because of my issues.
I need transition time, probably even more so than my kids do. When we walk in the door around 4:00 PM, I need time to adjust from work-mode to home-mode. I need to get bags unpacked, get a little organized, and get out of my work clothes and into my comfy clothes. My kids want attention. This often puts us at odds.
While this is probably still a challenging time of day for us (well, me), I have found some things that help quite a bit. Here are our tips for making after school easier:
1. Create a routine. You knew I would suggest this, didn't you? Creating a routine helps everyone to know what needs to be done and when. Kind of like the blueprint for the afternoon. If you need help creating a routine, you can read my post on how to create a routine for kids here.
2. Fill their bellies. My kids do better when they are not hungry. So getting them an after school snack when we get home goes a long way in making the next hour run smoothly. What's even nicer is when they can get their own snack, without my help. We have a number of snacks that are easy enough for the boys to get themselves. Yogurt, string cheese, fruit, applesauce, pretzels, animal crackers -- all of these snacks are available and they know how to get them out and get started on them.
3. Give them a job to do. As I said, I need about ten minutes when we get home to get myself together. So my kids have a few simple "jobs" to do when we first get home that buy me a little time. They both need to unpack their backpacks and put them away. Papers and lunch bags go on the kitchen island, bags go in the bin by the door. Then they can get a snack. Then there is usually a chore that can be done, such as bringing the trash can up from the curb or feeding the cats, if I need a little extra time.
4. Base when you do tasks on the needs of your kids. In that hour or two between walking in the door and sitting down to dinner, there are three things my kids need. One is to do homework, another is to play, and finally is to do their chores. I know my kids do best if we get homework out of the way first, then they have time to play, then they do chores right before dinner (or after if it works better). Other kids are different and need time to play before they can focus on homework, but mine get too tuckered out and do a poor job if we try to do homework later in the day. Base the order you do things on how well your kids can accomplish the tasks. When kids can experience success easier, they have much better attitudes!
5. Prioritize tasks during busy seasons. Fall is a busy time for us. The Coach is gone at football a lot, and now we have Roo's flag football schedule added in. So we prioritize what we can get done based on the day. Flag football practice days we have to eat earlier to get to the field on time. So there is no way to fit homework, chores, and play in before dinner. I make sure we get homework in, then I let the boys have some down time, and we let chores go until the next day if we need to. (I realize the irony that i just wrote last week about the myth of prioritizing!)
6. Multitask. With so much to get done in such a short span of time, there is no way to give my undivided attention to everything. I often have the kids do homework at the kitchen island while I am getting dinner ready. This way we're all in the kitchen, I can help with questions and see how they are doing, but also get dinner going so we can eat at a reasonable time. Another trick is I supervise their chores while getting my own done.
7. Meal plan.This tip makes my after school time so much easier. I think I might go crazy if I was trying to figure out dinner every day in the middle of homework and chores and de-stressing from the day. Meal planning allows me to simply look at my plan and get going on whatever I need to do to prepare the meal. It also allows me to have some meals in the crockpot and ready when we walk in so busy nights we can focus on other tasks instead of cooking. Wondering how I meal plan? I have a post for that! :)
These are the tips that help us have smoother and calmer afternoons. I still get stressed at times, especially the first ten minutes or so when we walk in the door, but these tips certainly go a long way in having an overall better and less stressful period after school.
What tips do you have for making after school easier at your house?
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