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6 Tips to Stay Connected when Back-to-School Schedules Explode

Clearly, packed schedules get in the way of family time - or family volunteering time. But how do you find that line between over-scheduled lives and the reasonable pursuit of interests and skills each family member values? Even with the best of intentions, our weeks fill up, time flies by, and we find ourselves struggling to connect with one another as school, activities, and work pull us in many different directions.

Honestly, I'm not here to authoritatively answer that question. My oldest is only in second grade.

I do feel qualified to share our methods. Somehow this little second grade girl has told me, "No."

She is saying no to extra activities this year. She came to me worried that she might be too busy to play with her sister and her friends. Or too busy to do some of the big-hearted activities we've come to love as a family.

So the brownie sash is packed away in her keepsake box. I'll have to find my cookies elsewhere.

Anyway, here are my six tips for strengthening family connections and keeping your sanity during this busy, back-to-school season. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

1) Set priorities: Too obvious? Maybe, but we all overlook this most basic of scheduling rules. Spend your next family dinner talking about (or re-affirming) your priorities, your family mission statement. You can keep it simple, or you can use these wonderful conversation starters from Simple Mom to take it deeper. Whatever you come up with, write it down and post your priorities somewhere handy for future reference.

2) Set limits: Maybe you want to draw the line at one activity per kid or at least three unscheduled days each week. Find what you are comfortable with, and defend your limits!

4) Eat Together:  If it weren't for Family Dinner, we wouldn't have heard much about second grade. There is something about assembling tacos and chasing beans around with a fork gets a kids' mind to wander. By the time her plate is (more or less) clean, I feel like I've been to second grade!

5) Do Good Together: Make room in  your schedule to volunteer together. Check out our projects page and sign up for our newsletter or our facebook feed for ideas to get you started. Also, watch for the launch of a brand new resource early  next month!

6) (Re) Establish Kindness Rituals: Rely on at least one daily ritual to reconnect. Reading at bedtime can seem redundant once your child reads on her own. Let me tell you, it's not. My daughters and their dad are taking turns reading chapters from Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, without a doubt their favorite time together. Or you could share your daily gratitude at the end of the day. Or dance together.  What are the daily rituals your family enjoys? Be sure to leave time for them as often as possible.

The transition to new schedules, new grade levels, homework, friends, and independence levels can be a stressful time for a family.

Remind yourself that less is more, in terms of scheduling. Even on the busiest weeks, build in a small moments of kindness. Connect with one another. You'll find these simple moments restore everyone's energy for the next big activity.

How do you keep reasonable control of your school schedule? How do you build in breathing room even on the busy weeks?