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Mendo Lake Family Life

How to Keep Your Kids on Task After School

By Elizabeth Pearson

Transitioning back into the school year can be tough, but if you create routine and structure around after-school time, you’ll find you’re household runs like a well-oiled machine.

Here are my tips for keeping everyone on task and the whining to a minimum:

Do the Most Important Thing First What do your kids resist doing the most? Whatever that thing is, make it your priority to knock it off the to-do list first. For my family, it’s bedtime…well, bath time to be specific. When we announce it’s bath time, we’re immediately met with groans of displeasure from our children. It’s the thing that brings an already-tough bedtime to a screeching halt.

So, to set ourselves up for success, we have our kids bathe as soon as they walk in the door and drop their backpacks. No snack. No TV. No nothing until they’ve bathed. We promise them that if bath time goes smoothly, and they do it right away, they can have 30 minutes of “zone-out” time. Is this bribing them? Nah. I choose to call it “incentivizing.”

Make them Co-CEOs of the House Making kids special after-school assistants is a win-win for everyone: They get one-on-one time with you, and you get help with the evening chores. Standing side by side at the sink and peeling carrots or cucumbers is a great way to cross off some meal prep, while also connecting with your kids about their day.

Of course, you’ll need to use your discretion on what utensils are safe for your kids to handle, but in my experience, a veggie scrubber or peeler is pretty low risk. Prepping healthy snacks on weekdays is also a great way to give sometimes hangry kids an opportunity to grab something nutritious, instead of whatever’s at eye-level in the pantry, while they wait for dinner.

Folding laundry is also a great Co-CEO assignment. Kids like the feeling of completion once they’ve taken a large mound of laundry and folded it into a pretty stack. If they are resistant, watch an episode of Marie Kondo’s NetFlix show Tidying Up with them, and before you know it, they’ll be on board. Don’t stress if they don’t fold everything perfectly. It’s not about the folding; it’s about talking and connecting with them as they do a constructive task.

Hit the Library I have to admit, it had been a couple of years since I’d been to our library, but once I brought my 4- and 7-year-old daughters there and they saw the never-ending shelves of books they could read, their eyes lit up. Visit your local library to bulk up on the book offerings in your house and encourage kids to log reading, rather than screen, time. The library can be a fun place to do homework as well, because sometimes kids merely need an environment without all the distractions of home in order to focus.

Be Mindful Together We’ve all heard about the benefits of slowing down and being more mindful, but in case you need a reminder, mindfulness:
• reduces stress
• curbs anxiety
• promotes emotional health
• enhances self-awareness
• lengthens attention span
• improves sleep

These benefits apply to your children as well, but we all know getting a squirmy child to sit crisscross applesauce in a quiet room is easier said than done. Meditation and mindfulness can come in many different forms—coloring books, for example. Yep, slowly coloring together can facilitate the soothing meditative effects mentioned above. There are plenty of adult coloring books out there, so dive in.

Another fun way to be mindful together is to go outside and play Eye-Spy or I-Hear. I-Hear is basically Eye-Spy set in nature: Everyone is encouraged to actively listen for birds, rustling leaves, or flowing water. Another way to trick your kids, and yourself, into slowing down is to download a Chakra Balancing playlist off YouTube or Apple music. Lay down side-by-side with your little one on your bed or rug and listen to the guided meditations together. These playlists, or any mediation playlists for that matter, are wonderful to do just prior to bedtime. And, by the way, they’re super helpful for keeping your patience sky-high and aggravation at an all-time low. 

Elizabeth Pearson is a professional life coach, spiritual seeker, writer, wife, and mother. Elizabeth specializes in getting women “unstuck” so they can achieve their highest goals in all aspects of life. Find her at