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How To S t r e t c h Time

Busy parents must juggle many tasks and priorities. Learning to manage your time — and teaching the kids how to manage theirs — gives your family a valuable skill. Here are three experts' suggestions to help  parents and kids maximize their time.

Infants

Meet the Experts

Maryanne Bourque, RN, Community Education Coordinator, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE: “Having a new baby can be overwhelming for even the most organized parent. Keep it simple and keep it realistic!”

Audrey Krisbergh, Director of The Center for Parenting Education, Abington, PA: “Parents can feel depleted, drained and controlled by all the things on their ‘to-do’ list. One way they can take more charge of their lives is by prioritizing — what is really essential that they do and what can be put on hold or taken off the list altogether?”

Marcia Ruberg, PhD, school psychologist at Rosa International Middle School in Cherry Hill, NJ: “The amount of time that’s required for high school students to do schoolwork at home in order to do well in a competitive high school is exponentially greater than for younger kids. The need to multi-task is very, very demanding.”
 

  • Prioritize. Make a list of things you want to accomplish in order of importance and don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Organize your time wisely. Take advantage of nap time to begin preparing dinner or make bathtime an afternoon water play activity instead of waiting until night.
  • Be sure to take time for yourself. Even a five-minute break to read the paper can rejuvenate a harried parent.
  • If family members offer to help, let them. Simply holding your colicky baby while you nap, or putting the baby to sleep so you can get a few hours to yourself, will help. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it by yourself and people enjoy helping out.

Toddlers

  • Break bigger tasks into smaller pieces and have your child help. For example, when creating a meal, let your toddler take the bowl out of the cupboard or put napkins on the table.
  • Create daily routines. A morning routine might include teaching your child to use the bathroom, brush her teeth and get dressed as soon as she wakes up. This avoids a potential fight to complete these tasks when you need to get out the door. You can create a picture chart showing these tasks for a child who can’t yet read.
  • Realize that young children do not have a sense of time. Use visuals such as a digital clock to explain when you need to leave the house. Once your child recognizes numbers, you can make a game out it. For example, say, “Let me know when this number flips to the 2. That will be the time when we have to start putting things in the car.”
  • Give appropriate warnings. Adequate forewarning can often prevent struggles. For example, let a child know that “at the end of this show” we will be leaving.

Elementary

  • Use timers. If your child needs to practice an instrument for 20 minutes, use a timer to help him understand how long that is.
  • Keep the bedroom TV-free. Combining a TV with a developing sense of what time is can create conflicts between the parents and children. It’s better to remove the temptation.
  • Create visual calendars. Make a picture calendar to show school days, activities and other events that your child will be expected to attend.
  • It’s okay to say no. Be careful not to over-schedule your child with activities. Allow him some free time to read, color, watch TV and just relax.

Tweens

  • Use a planner. Teach your child how to use a daily planner to write down all of her homework and other assignments every day.
  • Utilize a home/school folder. Have a pocket on one side for things to go “to school” and another on the other side for things to come “from school.” Along with your child, be sure that she has done each of her assignments and that all of her homework is ready to go the next morning.
  • Renegotiate expectations. Set age-appropriate bedtimes, expectations for the amount of homework or studying your child will do each night and free time to use the computer and phone.
  • Take the computer out of the bedroom and monitor its use during study time. This will help prevent computer play from sabotaging schoolwork. Your child may not have the internal skills to censor herself.

Teens

  • Take advantage of access to your child’s grade and attendance online. Most schools provide parents with a website and password to view their children’s progress. Keep track of how they are doing to catch potential problems before it’s too late.
  • Help your child multi-task. Kids need to allocate time for long-term assignments along with short-term tasks. Help your child understand how to balance all of his work.
  • Help your kids avoid over-scheduling themselves with schoolwork, jobs, extracurricular activities and a social life. They need to learn how to prioritize demands and give themselves some free time to decompress.
  • Let kids know they can ask for help when needed. You want to teach your kids to be more independent. But if you see they are wasting time by floundering or heading down the wrong track, advice and reassurance helps.

Terri Akman is a local freelance writer.

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