No matter where you live in the world, school for our children looks and feels very different this fall. Parents are more physically present in their children’s schooling than ever before leaving many of us feeling overwhelmed and anxious about how we will be able to help our kids with school while keeping up with everything else.

As I read different articles about navigating this non-traditional back to school, one common theme I hear is the importance of setting a schedule. And that’s really great in theory, but the practicality of that can be challenging. Today I want to share with you a few tips on how to create family rhythms for a non-traditional school year that will help meet not just the academic but the social and emotional needs of each family member.

How to create family rhythms for a non-traditional school year

Find YOUR Family’s Rhythm

My grandfather loves to play the drums. He is 92 years old and one of his favorite things to do is to get all of us together for a drum circle. Over the years of watching him play drums or joining in the drum circle I’ve noticed that the consistent beat of the drum changes slightly to adapt for the needs or progression of the particular song. Sometimes the drums fade into the background with a steady repeated rhythm. Other times it speeds up through the bridge from one part of the song to another. And it can even be the star, front and center for a solo. 

Finding a rhythm for our family is similar. It does not mean that we do the same thing at the same time every day. Rather it means that there is a consistency to our lives. This predictability provides feelings of safety and security because we know what to expect. Sometimes the rhythm might change up depending upon a particular need but it has a steady place to return to once that need is done. 

As you consider the coming school year, it can be helpful to find a rhythm to your days. Think about not just academic/work rhythms but physical movement breaks, food, connecting with friends and family.  

Be mindful of finding the right rhythm for your family and not trying to force your family into someone else’s rhythm. Just like every song has its own unique rhythms, so do families. Some families work well with a posted schedule with times for each activity. Others will find they work better with a more fluid rhythm. It’s easy to compare my family’s rhythms to other’s but their needs and values are different, so we need different rhythms. 

Identify ALL of Your Family’s Needs

Yes, getting school work done is a priority, but let’s not forget the social, emotional, and physical needs of our families as well. A child who is not getting enough physical movement or healthy connection with friends and peers will struggle. We might need to get creative such as setting up online hangouts for our kids or it might be something as simple as going for a walk or bike ride together. 

In the past, much of my family’s social needs were connected to our kids playing sports. Not only were they physically moving their bodies for practices and games, but friendships were made and kept over the shared love of the sport. And right now, where we live, no sports are being played this fall, so we are looking for creative ways to meet these needs. 

And as you identify the needs of your family, make sure to make room for your needs as well. Develop rhythms that help you take care of yourself so that you can take care of your family. This might mean getting up early to enjoy some quiet or connecting with friends on a regular basis. For others, it’s reaching out for help when a need within their family is more than they can handle on their own. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength.

Try Something and Being Willing to Adapt

Have you heard the saying “There are no “mistakes,” only “miss-takes”? This simple little phrase has been life changing for me both professionally and personally. I can put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and get things right the first time. And I’m learning that the cost of putting this type of pressure on myself robs not only myself but my family of life and freedom.

Now, when I notice something isn’t working in our family, I can offer grace to myself and say, “We tried it one way and now we get to try it a new way.” For my family, September will find us schooling and working full time from home. Even as I attempt to wrap my head around what that will look like and begin to formulate a possible rhythm to our days, I also want to hold these plans with open hands and be willing to adapt and change as the needs of our family change and grow. It doesn’t mean that we made a mistake with our first attempt or even eleventh attempt but rather that we tried something and learned that we need to try something different.