Do you find the evening routine after school really stressful with tired children? And maybe you have been out at work all day yourself or wrangling with your preschool-age children so you are feeling pretty exhausted too. Does it always seem like a constant barrage of trying to get homework and music practice done around extracurricular activities and also get a cooked meal on the table, then do the bathtime and bedtime routine. And you are often doing this single-handedly because your spouse / partner is not home until late. I know there can be a lot of hoops to jump through in the early evenings, it’s just exhausting.

To simplify things straight out of the gate, it helps to write down an evening routine for each day of the week, if different things happen on each day, with approximate timings of what you should be doing at what time. You should write down what extracurricular activities are happening (if any) and then fit everything else around these with approximate, if not exact, timings for each activity. Also, write down which homework assignments need to be completed and by when.

You should keep any equipment / kits necessary for extracurricular activities stored in the same place at all times so that they are easy to find for the next time. Encourage your children to get their own kits ready as soon as they are old enough.

For homework, have a dedicated box where all pencils, pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners, rulers and felt tip pens / crayons are stored to avoid having to waste time searching for everything you need. Stock the box up on a regular basis with new supplies as necessary. I know how difficult it can be to motivate children to actually get on with their homework when they are tired at the end of the day. Try rewarding younger children with a star chart or with an immediate reward, such as watching a favourite TV programme or time on their devices.

Regarding getting a hot meal on the table, make things easy for yourself. This is another area where organization is key. I recommend at least meal planning in advance for a whole week at a time. If at all possible, I would do some batch cooking when you get a spare hour or two so that you have a freezer full of meals ready to quickly defrost. Or, to make things even easier, why not get your children to eat a hot lunch at school, if possible, so that they only need a light snack in the evenings. That alone will save you a lot of time.

Can you cut corners anywhere? Take a look at how many extracurricular activities your children are doing and decide whether or not there is a manageable number or too many? Obviously, it is not my place to tell you how many is too many but, in the interest of reducing stress levels, I would suggest that ideally children should not be doing more than one extracurricular activity on any evening. There should also be one or two evenings per week when they are not doing any extracurricular activities at all. Also, if your children have a nightly bath, you could perhaps consider reducing the frequency to once every other day or encourage them to have a shower instead if they are school-age.

Could some of the tasks which are typically completed in the evening be performed in the morning instead? Needless to say, young children often wake up early. Instead of sending them back to bed, you could maybe get up with them and give them their bath in the morning rather than the evening. Similarly, some of their homework or music practice could be completed in the early morning so there is then less to do in the evening.

Above all, find small pockets of time in the busyness of the evening routine to perform small acts of self-care, such as applying some hand cream or filing your nails, for example. This will help to keep your stress levels in check and reinforce the fact that you matter too. And most definitely make sure you find the time to put your feet up, at least for half an hour or so, once the evening routine is over and the little darlings are in bed.

Managing the evening routine with young children

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