Family Structure For The Win


Family Structure For The WinI’m not going to lie; the last quarter of the year has kicked our family’s butt. It has been wonderful and amazing, don’t get me wrong, but there has also been tons of sickness and stress, specifically for the two members of the family who have gone back to school: my five-year-old and me. We’ve experienced really big emotions. Our mornings are stressed and rushed. I’m constantly forgetting appointments and losing important paperwork. My son is having difficulties controlling his feelings.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have researched, seen professionals, and tried out lots of things to try and help us to experience a bit more calm. By no means have we perfected ANY systems, but we are experiencing some success…and that’s amazing!

If you’re experiencing any of these struggles, I’m here to (hopefully) offer some simple and practical solutions to help you experience a tad more peace:

Create a morning and night routine

For someone that is NOT a morning person, this was my biggest struggle and honestly, I haven’t gotten it down quite yet. However, our nighttime routine is solid and we’re working on our mornings. Basically, if you’re someone like me who struggles with attention and a chaotic mind, here is the best way I’ve found to establish a routine. First, make a huge messy list of everything you have to accomplish with your morning or night. Not things you’d like to do, but non-negotiables. Beside each item, write the time it takes to complete each task. Write them on a separate list in order of importance. Now we have a basic routine. Depending on how much time these tasks take up and how much time you need for your routine, you can add one to two “nice to do” items. These are tasks that, if you don’t get around to doing, it won’t ruin your day.

Here’s a basic sketch of my morning routine for a working mom:

  • 4:30am: Wake up and let the dog outside. Take 10 deep breaths of morning air.
  • 4:45am: Get dressed in shoes (or socks/house shoes if you don’t wear shoes inside).
  • 5am: Make a cup of coffee or iced water and take. those. vitamins.
  • 5:05am: Put on your make-up and fix your hair.
  • 5:40am: Finish coffee and have some quiet time (journal, bible study, check the planner, etc.).
  • 6am: Make breakfast for the family.
  • 6:20am: Wake up the kids and get everyone dressed.
  • 6:30am: Have everyone eat while you clean up the kitchen.
  • 6:45am: Get everyone’s bags packed and loaded in the car (lunches packed the night before) while the kids finish eating. I fast until 8am, so I’ll eat at work!
  • 7am: Leave for work and school!

I HIGHLY recommend hanging up your routine as a checklist for yourself. Then, for the kids, hang up a modified version with pictures instead of words for littles. If your kids are a bit bigger, include the words, but remove the times; this can help you keep the same routine even on the weekends or over the breaks without having to wake up so early! Consistency is key.

Create a command center

This has been extremely helpful for me, my husband, my mother-in-law, and the kids. Behind our front door, we have created a wall full of information for the family. We have a monthly calendar full of all of our family events. We include individual appointments, school dress up days, family activities, and other commitments. Our calendar also has a bulletin board. There, we place things like our kindergartener’s sight words on a binder ring, important forms to be completed and returned, and other loose items. The calendar also has an area to write notes. We write memory verses and other information that changes frequently here.

Below our calendar, we have a week-long calendar. Here is where I write the meals for the week. This helps us all pitch in; if I need meat taken out of the freezer, my husband checks the menu each day and makes sure everything I need is set up. Sometimes, my mother-in-law (who lives in a detached MIL suite), checks the menu and cooks or gets things started for us. This is also where we make a list of items we run out of, which really helps with grocery shopping later. Finally, we have our routines, chore charts, and family rules hanging up. This serves as a constant reference and reminder so things run smoothly.

Family rules 

One thing that we’ve really struggled with in raising toddlers and young children is behavior and maintaining consistency despite the constant changes in our schedule. We started to really see some behavior outbursts and issues when I went back to work full-time and my son started school. To help, we sat down and came up with a set of positively phrased family rules. While we don’t want our home to feel like school or a strict environment, it really helps me and my son, who needs structure and routine.

Our family rules are:

  • We always seek to honor and serve God.
  • We treat others with kindness and respect.
  • We follow directions right away, all the way.
  • Doing our best is more important than being the best.
  • Screentime is a reward, not a right.

Hanging up our rules has helped frame our conversations for redirection and correction when our kids aren’t making the best choices. It also helps us pick and choose our battles; if our kids aren’t necessarily “breaking” these rules, are we picking fights over preference or principle? 

I know this isn’t a huge list, but I’ve noticed that I have a terrible time taking on too much and experiencing failure, burn out, or being so overwhelmed that I can’t keep up. Starting with only two to three things has really helped me implement practical things in our family that have helped tremendously.

What about you? Is your family a “schedule and structure type family,” or do you prefer more flexibility and spontaneity?