5 tips to stay connected when your family schedule is busy

Part of back to school that I like is that our family gets back to a routine.
Albeit a crazy sometimes circus like routine, but a routine.
We have kids {and parents} with activities nearly every night of the week.
I like to be as involved in the kids schools as I can be, but that means that I could also be sitting in a school committee meeting nearly every night of the week.
In the wise words of Sweet Brown
It's hard sometimes to stay connected as a family when we have five different schedules to coordinate.
Here are 5 ways that our family stays connected, even with our busy schedules.

1. Have a no TV/electronics rule before school
If my kids are distracted by the TV or the computer, I can repeat myself 100 times and no one will hear me.  My voice gets louder and louder and our morning starts off with screaming and tears {sometimes from the kids, usually from me}.  My kids can't seem to focus on getting ready for school if they are too busy wondering what crook the meddling kids from Scooby Doo will catch next. It's just easier to have this blanket rule for us in the morning and it allows us to spend time starting off the day on the right foot.  Sometimes we play games, sometimes we read a few chapters in a read out loud book, sometimes we tell stories and sometimes the kids spend extra time in the bath. Regardless, the kids know that if they ask to play the computer or watch TV the answer is no.
2. Have kids help
It's not rocket science, and I'm not quite sure why I didn't think of it sooner, but asking for help from your kids can not only ease your burden, but it can let them feel a part of the family and encourage responsibility.  About a year ago, I was frustrated with how dirty the bathrooms were from daily use.  We have three bathrooms and three kids, seriously, why did it take me so long to think about using them as child labor!  They not only have become cleaner bathroom users {I have two boys, I'm not going into details!}, but it has freed up some of my time so that I can do a puzzle in the morning before school.
3. Eat family dinner
Family dinner is one of the most important parts of our day. It's getting harder and harder to make it a priority with kids schedules, but at this point with a 16, 12 and 9 year old, we are still able to have a home cooked family dinner at least six nights a week.  It's the one time of the day that all five of us slow down and are in the same place at the same time. It's a time for us to connect, check in and plan the evening and the next day. It helps that my husband's work schedule is very predictable and that he is home every day like clock work at 5.
4. Plan family activities
There is a magical time in a child's life when there is a shift from wanting to spend time with your family to wanting to spend time with your friends. Remember those days when your kids couldn't get enough of you and were tugging at your leg and sitting on your hip and 
Well, those days do come to an end. 
As parents, we have to be intentional about including every one of our kids in activities or we could be racing off with one kid, while the other two are with the other parent. We plan things like family movie night {thank you netflix!}, hikes {my kids least favorite-but if we tune out their constant whining we are sure they will look back on those hikes as fun family time}, and time at the beach.
5. Cancel everything
Before you think I'm talking crazy talk, hold on just a second to let me explain myself. I don't mean that you should cancel every activity that your family is a part of, not at all.  I just think that for one day, sometimes changing things up and spending time as a family is the best thing that you can do. The earth will still spin if your child doesn't go to her soccer practice and the PTA will still exist if you don't volunteer at the rummage sale. Sometimes, if your family has been running in all directions, you just need a family mental health day. 
Pull the shades, stay in your jammies, and just enjoy one another.  
Watch a series on Netflix {I recommend Saved by the Bell}, share a movie that you enjoyed when you were a kid {Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of my favorites}, make a blanket fort {inspiration here}.  Your kids won't expect the change in their routine, but they will think that it is the coolest thing ever and will actually want to hang out with you and hunker down for the day.
Do you have any tips to help keep your family connected when you are busy running in all directions?  I would love to hear them.
disclaimer: all opinions are 100% my own.  I do receive a Netflix subscription in exchange for my monthly participation as a stream team member.

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