Have you noticed that during the busiest times of the year, your marriage often feels less satisfying and supportive? It’s no secret that life transitions place an extra strain on our most important relationships. And often, we’re just so busy coping that we don’t take time to notice what’s happening – or not happening – with the ones we love and depend on so much.
You might not think of back-to-school time as an especially tough challenge for your marriage, but it definitely can be. Preparing for another school year draws together issues of time management, money, work vs. family life and the achievement levels of your children – all of which can be hot buttons for you and your partner.
Being the best, most organized parents you can be is a good first step. So is making time for each other as a couple. We offer 9 tips here that couples therapists say will ease the transition to school while helping you offer love and support for your partner, too.
- FAMILY BULLETIN BOARD
Create a family bulletin board with to-do items under each child’s name. You can use an old-school felt, chalk or whiteboard or use an online app. Make your bulletin board special with big symbols that celebrate success, such as a giant check-mark or a heart that kids can put next to their completed chores.
- HOMEWORK STATION
A designated homework station with all the necessary supplies makes it easier for children to concentrate on homework. Place hooks nearby for backpacks and provide a calendar (analog or online) with important homework assignments and school trip dates.
- SNACK BASKET
An after-school snack basket is a smart way to offer your child the quick boost s/he may need after a long day away from home. Fill it with fruits, nuts and other healthy choices.
- PLANNED LUNCHES
Parents who have lunches planned at least a week in advance and have them packed the day before, find this approach reduces the stressful scramble to put lunches together each morning.
- OUTFIT BAGS
Have young kids that haven’t learned to put an outfit together yet? Lay them out a day or two ahead. You can use zip-lock bags with the day of the week written on the outside of each bag, with matching outfits inside each one. Review the outfit the night before your child can make little changes, offering a sense of control while reducing the chances of an early morning freak-out!
- DINNER HOUR
The family dinner hour is always important, but it’s even more crucial when school is in. Kids need to know they can count on having this time with you. Go around the table and have each person name a couple of good things that happened that day. Kids need to share a laugh with you and raise any issues that are troubling them. Keep the conversation light, but look for worries that can be discussed after the plates are cleared away and things are quieter.
- WEEKEND PLANS
Talk about weekend plans on Thursday or Friday so that everyone knows what to expect. Kids need alone time on weekends, and they may also need free hours to complete larger homework assignments. Chatting about family plans assures that group activities don’t block out other priorities and reduces the chance of clashes over who’s going where and when.
- DATE NIGHT
Don’t forget date night. It’s easy to skip giving this gift to yourselves but during busy transition times, having a few quiet hours together as a couple is even more essential. Book a sitter or take advantage of those nights when your kids sleep over at friends’ homes. Do something you’ve wanted to do for a long time – or simply enjoy being alone together.
- COFFEE MEETING
Have a little coffee meeting each morning, or a debriefing time after the kids go to bed. Scheduling a few moments to check in as adults will make such a difference for your marriage, whether you’re navigating new school schedules or planning for the upcoming holidays. It’s amazing how giving each other permission to talk openly about how things are going can soothe hurts and surface issues that need deeper work. Make it clear that your mate can share anything and everything – and if you need more time on a particular issue, make a date to continue the conversation later.
PROTECTING YOUR MARRIAGE FROM DAY-TO-DAY STRESS
Do you find yourself struggling to keep everything in balance as you manage kids, household, career, and marriage?
There’s no need to soldier on, thinking things will somehow get better. Often, they don’t – at least not without some time devoted to examining the deeper issues.
As a professional couples therapist with decades of experience, Janae Munday, LCSW, has helped hundreds of Phoenix-area couples build stronger, more loving relationships. To schedule a confidential appointment with Janae, give her a call today.