How We Added More Structure to Our Family Weekend

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

The three-day-weekend will be here before you know it. So, I thought I’d share something we did at our last family meeting to help us get our act together on the weekends.

Over the years, I’ve figured out that the structure of school and work make our Monday – Friday hum along quite smoothly.

In fact, our after-school and school-night routine is very predictable (Downtime, then supper, homework, bath & bed – Whew.)

But lately I’ve noticed that our weekends had slipped into a unfulfilling mix of tearing to events sprinkled with some lazing about, culminating in a frantic Sunday night.

(If you’ve ever experienced a Sunday where you’re starting supper after 7pm and then realize there’s some surprise homework to do, essential laundry needed by morning and no bread for breakfast toast/lunchbox sandwiches, you know what I mean.)

How We Added More Structure to the Weekend

I’m always fascinated to learn the ways families keep it all together

For us, it’s next to impossible to manage all we have going on without good systems – checklists, to-dos, calendars, organization, etc.

I love ’em all.

So, at our family meeting, I had the kids help create a pie chart to represent how out of whack our weekends had become.

For one thing, there was too much video game time – and it was plain to see our weekends needed some shaping up in between the good stuff like move night, date night, and gopher basketball (those are keepers!).

We decided needed to look at the core things that needed attention from the kids on the weekendno matter what other things were on the calendar – and then provide the structure (time limits, expectations, standards) for each area.

So, here’s our new pie chart – our ideal weekend guide (it’s on the fridge at this very moment) – for how to better use our weekend time moving forward:

Weekend Pie Chart

It’s not perfect (nor is it perfectly drawn to scale) and I know it’s subject to criticism – but it’s what we came up with and we like it.

Here are the core areas we addressed in the pie chart:

1. Sleep

No big surprise here – we agreed that everyone needed more sleep. It’s hard to buckle down with bedtimes after Christmas break, but we were paying the price for staying up late.

We asked the kids these questions:

  • How much sleep do you need each night?  Answer: 8-9 hours is ideal for the older two, 9-10 hours is ideal for the younger two
  • What is the difference between going to bed and going to sleep?  This was the perfect set up for our next question…
  • What do you think your LAS time should be if you need x hours of sleep? LAS stands for “Lids Are Shut”.  (What can I say? The kids love acronyms.)

Once we got these questions squared away, we added some common sense changes to our routines:

  • The melatonin got moved from the downstairs kitchen to Will’s room.
  • We set up a charging station in the kitchen for devices to be checked in at bedtime.
  • And, we reinforced a point that I am passionate about – School starts on Sunday Night. Why? Because if we nail what we need to do to prepare for the week on Sunday night, then we will be setup to have a great week.

2. Tech Time (Vide0 Games)

I’ve got three boys that love their devices – Will has his Xbox and the boys play Clash of Clans on the iPad mini.

It doesn’t bother me as long as it doesn’t consume their day – which it can.

On school days, they can enjoy any device or TV between 4pm – 6pm.  The weekends needed a similar boundary – so we settled on 2-3 hours tops on Saturday and Sunday.

3. Sonny

Sonny is a total Mama’s dog. But, this Mama isn’t going to take care of the dog all by herself. My plate is full and he’s our FAMILY dog.

The ten minutes part of the pie represents the ten minutes every day each of the kids needs to spend with Sonny.

Just ten minutes a day (40 minutes total for Sonny) – letting him out, playing with him, walking him, petting him, feeding him, getting him fresh water – everyone does their part and hopefully there are no more accidents in the house!

 4. Car Clean-out

We just got a new van.

Shopping for a vehicle was something we turned into a family endeavor. The kids learned some good economic lessons – but I love that they also learned how big financial decisions impact more than just wallets. For instance, we talked about our feelings about debt, the value of thoroughly researching a big purchase, and how we slow down decision-making with big spends.

All that said, now the van is ours – and it sure is a far cry from the beater we traded in.

The kids are old enough to help take care of it – so we set up a schedule for teams of two and then put them on a rotation for weekend car clean-outs.

This Mom’s standard? By Sunday night, there should be nothing – no article of clothing, no school bag or papers, no mail or magazines, no leash or basketball – absolutely nothing in the van.

5. Meal Planning

We also put the car clean-out team in charge of meal planning for the week (which got everyone excited).

Having the kids plan the meals for the week takes one more to-do off my list, gets their buy-in on meals (and hopefully eating the food), and makes sure that we aren’t calling delivery last minute because the day got away from us.

I’m really loving this one – and the kids are, too.

6. Church & God

Of course, Sundays are church – but now the kids are old enough to attend church on their own if they have a schedule conflict on the weekend.

We decided we’d let the older two attend church on their own Saturday nights or early Sunday morning if they needed more time for homework or an activity.

Our kids learned to pray at a much earlier age than I did. I love that.

Even so, I like to remind them to pray – with gratitude, with confidence, without hesitation – to build that spiritual side of themselves everyday. So, God’s on the pie chart.

7. Cards, Chores & Everything Else

As I mentioned in a previous post, the best thing about Christmas break was teaching the kids how to play cards. We definitely want to carve out some time for that on the weekends.

The “1 hour” is for the time I need from them on Saturdays mornings to tidy things up.

I’ve got a few fun ideas to try for this – so I’ll be sharing those in later posts after we give them a test drive.

The Big Take Aways

I think sometimes it’s easy to assume that our families – the people who know and love us the best – should “just know” what is needed to make things better, to keep things running smoothly, to keep peace, etc.  

Of course, it doesn’t work that way.

After twenty-two years of marriage and fourteen years of raising kids, we just keep chipping away – norming and storming – until we’re through one hurdle… and then it’s on to the next. 

The best thing about our ideal pie chart activity is all the discussion it created and the lessons shared – about sleep and boundaries and planning and chores. These things are too important to be left to chance and our family is so much better when we do these things right.

When we were all done, John turned to me and said, “I love our family meetings.”

Amen to that.

Still growing...

Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
Jennifer Ebeling
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