How to Get Family Life Back on Track

Every family goes through it. That unsettled period where routines are derailed. Family life feels off-kilter and unsustainable. Sometimes it’s work, illness or one of life’s curve balls that throws us off-course. Other times it’s something more pleasant like a family holiday that upsets the balance. Even the school holidays are enough to throw family life off kilter.

Whatever the cause, it can be tricky to find our way back. My own family is going through this after a long period of over-commitment to various projects on my part. Here’s how I intend to get us back on track…

  1. Don’t wait for the perfect moment

    I have been waiting for months now for the air to clear and for space to become available. But it’s like a mirage. Just when it appears close, it shimmers away. I need to just make a commitment to change now.
  2. Don’t change everything at once

    When I think about what needs to happen, it can feel overwhelming. But I know one small thing at a time is achievable. An all or nothing approach isn’t going to work for the kids or for my husband and I.
  3. Focus on the positive

    I think connecting together as a family in a positive way is important when it feels like stricter rules are being imposed. Spending time together on things we enjoy remains a priority.
  4. Get bedtime under control

    Bedtime seems to be the first thing that goes awry when routines are disrupted. But sleep is so important and tired kids are grumpy kids. It’s the first thing to get back to where it needs to be. This article is helpful.
  5. Eat at least one meal together

    When family feels disjointed I think it’s important to focus on the rituals that promote connection. If you can’t have dinner with young kids think about whether breakfast is an option.
  6. Get sorted

    It’s hard to get the family sorted when I’m feeling disorganised or overwhelmed. I need to make sure I’m in the right head space.
  7. Ask what can be let go?

    If life is too full for it to work properly, I need to look at what can be let go. Maybe it’s one of the kids sporting commitments. Maybe it’s my cutting back on work.
  8. Talk about it

    Chatting as a family about what’s important is a good starting point in creating routines that work for everyone. In corporate speak it’s called “buy-in”. In family speak it’s common sense.
  9. Let kids take responsibility

    I know my boys are capable and I need to trust them with more. There are plenty of things they can take care of themselves.
  10. Walk to (or from) school

    The days we walk to school just seem to flow better. There is the chance for conversation on the way and because we have had to aim for an earlier leave time, I concentrate solely on getting the kids out of the door. Rather than cramming in a million other things.
  11. Look forward to something

    Planning a family outing or fabulous day trip gives everyone something to focus on. Having a countdown is a fun way to look forward to it together.
  12. Tackle one big chore at a time

    When things go off-course, it’s likely the house-work has also taken a hit. When I look around my house I need to take several deep breaths. I also need to be realistic, write a list of what needs to be done, and work through it one thing at a time. Even if I just tackle one thing a week. These hacks might help too.
  13. Make sure kids are clear on expectations

    After a period of disruption, the goal posts have moved and the kids know it. It’s time to move them back into position and be very clear about what is acceptable and what isn’t.  Which leads me to…
  14. Say no and follow through

    Often my kids interpret “no” as the starting off point for negotiations. But that needs to change. Before I say no, I need to commit to my decision and keep it firm. If it’s not really a no, then I need to open the conversation with “let’s talk about this”.
  15. Sort out meals

    Meal times are another area of life that slides when things are derailed. By meal planning and ensuring that we eat consistently at an (early) time, I can reclaim some structure. This is an easy approach.
  16. Spend time with kids when they are behaving

    There is a disconnect between the time I lavish on my kids when they misbehave as opposed to the time I give them when they are behaving.  I need to address that balance.
  17. Reclaim the screen

    Oh, the screen. The defender and the destroyer of household sanity. I need to rein it in and allow it only after expectations are met. Hope these ideas will help.
  18. Set work boundaries

    When work continues to get in the way of my family, I know I need to set some boundaries around when I work, including checking emails.
  19. Be kind

    In all of this, it’s no good if I beat myself up for letting things get out of hand. I have to exercise some self-kindness. If you are in the same boat, I suggest you do the same.
  20. Plan for the future

    No matter what caused the derailment, it’s helpful to think about what might prevent it happening in the future and plan ahead.
  21. Ask for help

    There are no medals for martyrs. If you need help with kids, ask. If you need to get in a cleaner, do it. Sometimes we just need a little help at the wheel to get things back on-track.

What do you do when you hit derailment?

More help for busy families:

Image: Getty