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A Family That Plans Together …

How to stop being the family social secretary

Serena, I didn't forget! I didn't know about your pom performance!" My daughter stomped her foot, and her voice escalated. "Yes, you did. I told you the other day. As usual, you weren't listening!" Not wanting to "lose" this argument, I retaliated. "Perhaps you didn't communicate clearly!" I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Winning this argument wasn't going to solve the problem. "Serena, let's take a time-out. I do not want to say anything I will regret. Our way of communicating isn't working."

I walked to my bedroom and sat down. How did I forget Serena's pom performance? Last week it was Nik's football game that slipped my mind. Didn't I hear the correct dates and times when the kids told them to me?

I was feeling very frustrated by our miscommunication. How quickly we blamed each other. The defensiveness that followed was not the way to communicate or understand each other.

I called Noel, Serena, and Nikolas to the living room and apologized for my defensiveness. Then we began to brainstorm as a family. I admitted that forgetting important events was disappointing to all of us and working together to keep an accurate list of activities was the key to staying on top of things. The reality was I could not be their social secretary. I would only get exhausted and they would not learn time-management skills. We needed to work together. Here's the system we came up with:

Hold a family meeting once a week: Choose a day that works for everyone. We chose Sunday evening during dinner. Ask everyone to share their schedule for the upcoming week. Don't forget to include yourself. Carpooling needs to be a part of the discussion too. Purchase Post-It Notes and a mobile planner for organizing. The planner needs to be large enough to include everyone's details (e.g., events, phone numbers, locations) yet small enough to be placed in a purse, briefcase, or backpack. If financially possible, purchase a planner for each person in the family. Teach your kids to write their events in their own planners with any add-ons or deletes on Post-It Notes. You do the same to your planner.

Create or purchase a family calendar: If you have a computer, set up a family calendar. Help your children type in their events for the entire month. Print and then enlarge the calendar. Put it somewhere visible for everyone to view daily. Another idea is to purchase a Mylar erasable calendar. Give each child a different colored marker to write their weekly and monthly events. The family will learn to identify the specific color for that person. When family members cannot remember where someone is, they can go check it out on the family calendar.

When life is hectic, these practical time-management skills are essential for family communication. The family meeting offers interactive listening opportunities and the daily planners and family calendar encourage team work at home. By teaching our kids about time-management skills, we equip them for their adult lives. King David said in Psalm 31: 14-15: "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands."

Barbara Schiller is the executive director of Single Parent Family Resources www.singleparentfamilyresources.com. To respond, e-mail bschil4150@aol.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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