How to Manage Afterschool Activities in a Big Family
There can be a lot of hustle and bustle after school every day when you’ve got a big family. Between dance lessons, math team, soccer, or youth group, you might find you spend a lot of time running from one activity to the next as you get everyone where they need to be.
Even when there are bus services or other transportation options, managing the family schedule can still feel like a part-time job.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep the schedules straight and ensure everyone gets to where they need to be on time.
Set a Limit on How Many Activities the Kids Do
It’s OK to set a limit on how many activities your kids do every year. Figure out what makes the most sense for your family.
You might decide each child can do one activity per season. Or maybe you decide one sport and one club is doable for everyone.
Having kids involved in multiple activities at once may just be too hectic and too expensive. And setting limits can help them appreciate the activities that they do engage in even more.
Hold a Weekly Family Meeting
While one child may have practice directly after school every day like clockwork, another child’s activities may change depending on the day.
So it’s important to hold a family meeting at least once a week and collect all the information you need for the family schedule.
Of course, some coaches and organizers are better than others when it comes to announcing schedules. And last-minute changes may be inevitable due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
But do your best to plan each week ahead of time. And get the kids involved in developing the plan.
Make Older Kids Take Responsibility
Older kids should take responsibility for telling you their schedules, transportation needs, and any changes in their schedules.
You might even set a rule that says, “If you need a ride somewhere, I need three days advance notice,” as a way to encourage them to tell you what’s going on.
If you have an online calendar, you can make them responsible for inputting the days and times that they have activities.
Maintain One Family Schedule
Some coaches or group leaders may email you schedules or send memos home from school. Others may post things on social media.
All these different forms of communication can make things a mess.
You might find yourself using the calendar on your phone one minute and turning to the one hanging on your fridge the next.
But not tracking everything in one place is a recipe for chaos. And you don’t want to waste mental energy trying to remember appointments, practices, or activities.
Create one family calendar—either a paper one or an electronic one—and stick to it.
Get the Kids Involved in Packing Their Gear
Have each child create their own checklist of items they need to bring to practices, games, or rehearsals. And each evening, have them pack their own bag.
Younger kids will need some assistance in ensuring they remember everything. But the older they are, the more responsible they can be for remembering and packing their own stuff.
Use forgotten items as learning opportunities. Problem-solve how they can remember to be responsible for the items they need for their afterschool activities, and create a plan that helps them become more independent.
Establish a Transportation Plan
Once you have the schedule in place, figure out the plan for transportation. You may need to do a little problem-solving since there’s a good chance of some scheduling conflicts.
Can you drop one child off a few minutes early if you have to? Can another child carpool with someone else? Can another family member or parent help sometimes?
Make sure your kids know who is going to be driving them. And establish some safety rules about who they’re allowed to ride with. Make sure they’re aware of the transportation plan.
Cheer Everyone On
You might decide to set a rule that says everyone supports each other in one way or another. This could mean everyone attends a sibling’s soccer game or everyone goes to the dance recital.
Supporting each other’s activities can be important. Not only does it expose each child to other sports and activities, but it’s a great way to be a good sibling. Even if a sibling spends more time on the bench than the field, watching the game can be a great way to show kindness.
Accept That Some Activities May Get Missed
There will be times when you have to miss watching games. Or there may be other days when one child can’t make it to practice because you can’t physically get them there. You might have weeks when you need to use a “divide and conquer” approach where you attend one activity and your partner attends another.
This is OK. Use these situations as opportunities to teach life lessons. You may help your child learn to deal with sadness and disappointment. Or you could use it as a chance to talk about fairness.
Work on your own emotions around these things too. You might feel guilty that you can’t let your kids do more. Or you may feel bad that you can’t attend every game. But missing some activities doesn’t make you a bad parent.
Too much guilt could also lead to unhealthy choices. You might be tempted to let your kids stay up late or treat them with extra privileges when you feel bad that you can’t attend all their activities. But parenting out of guilt won’t do you or your kids any good.
Remind yourself that you’re doing your best to support your kids’ activities and you can’t be everywhere at once. The kids won’t be scarred for life if you aren’t in the stands sometimes.
So remind yourself that it’s OK to miss some activities. It’s an opportunity to teach them how to manage their emotions in a healthy way.
A Word From Verywell
Being the activities coordinator, director, and chauffeur will likely feel like a full-time job at times. Staying organized and getting the kids involved in helping you manage the schedule will be key to making things run as smoothly as possible