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Making the most of your evenings — time management for families

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As parents, we know the hours of 5-9 p.m. are precious. During those four evening hours a whirlwind of activity is taking place — after-school activities, dinner, homework and preparation for the next day. The cycle is endless.

How will you get it all done? Trying to ensure the evening hours are as productive as possible is difficult. Macon-Bibb County Extension wants to aid you in de-stressing and making sure your to-do list is complete.

My husband and I have a child in every school level of Macon-Bibb County schools. On any given day, we may have to be at one to three schools. When we are done, nightly tasks still await us. On those really hectic days, the crockpot is my friend. The house smells great when we arrive and I only have to make a side dish (salads and frozen veggies come in handy) and dinner is on the table.

Aside from using your crockpot, here are some suggestions to make the nightly routine a little easier:

▪ Share the load: Be sure everyone has a job. There is generally enough housework to go around. Make sure the chore is age-appropriate. My 6-year-old can fold towels, sweep and dry dishes. The two teenagers handle more difficult tasks, like taking out the trash and cleaning the kitchen. Chores instill responsibility in children and make them feel like they are part of the team. It also saves us parents from pure exhaustion. Don’t forget to acknowledge a job well done.

▪ Lose the distractions: Children and distractions go hand-in-hand. To avoid dallying on chores, turn off the television and remove ever present earbuds and headphones. It saves you from the repetition game and also helps children focus on the task at hand. In my experience, the task gets completed much faster.

▪ Get organized: I cannot over-emphasize the power of organization. Everything from school correspondence, papers in need of signatures and bills should have designated places in your home. Baskets work wonders for my family and will for yours, too.

▪ Begin with tomorrow in mind: Get outfits ready for everyone (this includes you), including accessories, the night before. Finding lost shoes, book bags and belts in the morning is frustrating. It only serves to stress you and the children and gets your day off to a rotten start.

▪ Utilize help: Grandparents and retired friends of the family are generally willing to assist and have the time to do so. We have a dear family friend who has dropped off several forgotten instruments, picked up an ill child or attended school events when my husband or I were unable to do so. In short, she has saved our lives.

▪ Establish a routine: Clearly outlining expectations and deadlines is essential. Children are resilient and will deliver, if expectations are clearly defined. A routine for weekday evenings can be as simple as snack, homework, chores, shower and in bed by 9 p.m..

▪ Be flexible: Children are not little adults. They will forget, get unfocused and expect you to make it all happen in spite of their lack of cooperation. In all honesty, there are some things I can live with while others are non-negotiable. The kitchen must be cleaned thoroughly every evening, and the family room must be at least tidied up before bed. Deep-cleaning such as dusting, glass-cleaning and mopping are often delayed until the weekend.

I hope these tips will assist you in having productive evenings and perhaps leave room for the fun family times that we all enjoy.

Contact county Extension agent Keishon J. Thomas at 478-751-6338 or