Between work, kids activities and homework, sometimes the evenings can be anything BUT relaxing. Especially if your child fights everything to do with homework or bedtime. But let’s face it, screaming and yelling to get homework and chores done and late bedtimes doesn't help anyone. So we have gathered up some tips on how to create a calmer, more relaxed evening routine:
1. Family Meeting
Start by holding a family meeting, letting your children know that your evening routines will change a bit, to help everyone stay happy while getting all the important stuff done on time. It’s always easier to get co-operation if they are aware of the changes you are trying to implement.
You want to make sure you communicate what is expected throughout the afternoon/evening. If you haven’t had any evening rules before, it can help to write them down to start so that it is very clear what your child is expected to do, starting right after school (you can use pictures for younger children). Also point out any consequences if the rules aren’t followed. That way, you can avoid any chaos by simply referring back to the agreed upon rules and consequences.
An example of some rules you may set is when your child first comes home for school. You might expect them to hang up their jackets, unpack their backpacks, putting their lunchboxes in the sink and their homework on their desk (or other homework station). Have a mom & dad “inbox” where any important papers, permission slips and information sheets should go.
It is always best to start homework as soon as possible after they come home from school. The later it gets, the more tired they (and you) will be and the work will feel more frustrating. Some kids need a bit of downtime when they first come home and that’s okay, but keep it brief and don’t let the downtime include screen time, which can be really hard to break away from. For older children who may have their own phones or tablets, you can use a basket where all electronics need to go when they first come home.
A quick snack, or some playtime outside can be good ways to transition from “school-mode” to “home-mode”. Depending on your family’s schedule, the downtime might be supper and that’s fine too.
Once their down time is over, it’s time to get started on homework. If your child has more than 30 minutes worth of homework, try dividing it into manageable chunks. For younger children set a timer to work for 15 minutes and then they can take a break (the break should be timed too so it doesn’t go on forever).
Older children can usually focus a bit longer at a time, but they can still benefit from dividing the work. They can set their own schedule to finish a certain task right after school, and do another task after supper or an activity for instance. That way, homework doesn’t turn into a marathon session, but they still have a plan to get it finished in plenty of time before bed.
Once homework and any chores are completed, your child may have some free time or play time depending on their age and bedtime. But regardless of age, everyone should get ready for tomorrow at this point. Make sure completed homework, agendas and any signed papers go back in backpacks. Prepare everyone’s lunches and pick out next day’s clothes to make for a much smoother morning. This is another area where a checklist can be helpful, for younger children AND especially for teenagers.
If you haven’t already, establish a set bedtime for each child that needs to be followed every night on school nights. Make it clear that they need to start getting ready for bed 30-45 minutes before their set bedtime. This time could be used for bath time and stories for the younger children, and reading time for the older children.
The most important part of creating a calmer evening routine, is to have a plan and to stay consistent. Some days just get crazy and having that plan, and the clear rules and expectations are going to go a long way to keeping the chaos and hot tempers at bay. Every family is different, and you will need to figure out what plan and which rules work best for yourfamily. The goal here is not perfection, but having a realistic, doable plan!