Category Archives: Setting up for Success

Apps that Set Parents up for Success

Getting more organised is a common New Year’s resolution.  When you are managing your life and the lives of members of the family, the task can feel quite monumental.  Coordinating schedules, goals and needs can become so overwhelming that you feel like you are drowning in information that cannot possibly be kept in your head.  I like to refer to it as the ‘mental load’.  With four children in my own family, I have often felt consumed by trying to keep data and information in the right places.  (I have been known to forget a dentist appointment or lose a permission form in my time.)  But how do you go about making the information accessible to all?

Fear not!  At Educating Matters, we know more than most the importance of this task.  Below are some of the apps that we use or recommend to others to help systemise information and alleviate the stress of managing the lives of those in your family along with your own.

Calendar Apps for Parents & Families

Cozi

Cozi is an amazing app for households to organise their busy lives. Each family member is given a colour to provide a visual cue as to who needs to be where.  This app is shared across devices so that each member of the family (depending on age) can see what is going on.  In addition to calendars, you have shared to-do lists (great for chores), shopping lists and a place to store recipes.  My favourite part of the app is the family journal.  You can share pictures and videos so that no member of the family has to miss out on fun moments from baby’s first smile to a teenager’s awards ceremony.  There is a free version and a paid add free version of this app.

2 Houses

2houses is designed to help separated parents communicate and organise co-parenting  their children.  This app has helped reduce the need for uncomfortable conversations in person which can become heated.  The synchronized calendar allows parents to set custody schedules, input events such as school plays or doctor appointments and even request to swap time for special events.  There is a finance section that shows where a child’s additional financial needs are and who is responsible for paying and when.  The messaging section is especially good when there has been a break down in relationship between parents.  It has end to end encryption and can be shared with an attorney or mediator.  Keeping all communication contained in this space allows information to be shared and provides accountability which helps to keep the tone civil.  There are many other features that help make co-parenting efficient and inclusive.  There are monthly and yearly plans for this service.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is great because it is free and easy.  All you need is an email address and you are good to go.  Google’s colour coding options make it easy to identify tasks and activities.  You can also share calendars which makes life much easier for families with older children.  You can also set permissions for who is allowed to add or delete events.  One of the features I like about this calendar is that it automatically inputs directions to appointments when a location is entered.  Whilst it does not have all the bells and whistles of other apps, it is a fantastic tool for organising your family’s busy life.

Apps for Chores and Rewards

RoosterMoney

Rooster Money is my favourite app for managing pocket money. I also like this app best for teens and tweens chore rewards. This is an app that grows with your family.  It teaches your children the value of the effort they put into actions.  You can set their currency to either cash or stars.  Small children can use it as a reward chart for brushing teeth or even potty training.  As your child grows, you can choose to change the currency to GBP from the Bank of Parents.  As they become more responsible, there is even a debit card they can have that you control.  They see how much they earn and track their spending.  It helps them understand the value of money and to think before making purchases.  There are free and paid versions of this app.

ChorePad

For younger children, this is a fantastic app.  It takes the old time paper charts and digitises them to make them fun and exciting.  You set up daily and weekly chore charts that when completed, lead to stars and trophies.  Many parents like that the rewards are not monetary.  It is very visually appealing to children with many themes and the ability to choose a picture or an avatar for their screen.  The parental screen is kept separate which means that parents are in complete control.  There are free and paid versions of this app.

These apps are only a sample of many that can help with the organisational needs of your family.  Whatever app you choose, the most important factor is consistency.  Choose your apps based on what makes the most sense for your family’s particular needs AND what you feel you will remain consistent in your usage.  This will help you become successful and alleviate your stress from managing your busy family.

Educating Matters includes in their many corporate seminars “Organising Matters”.  This hour is jam packed with useful and achievable information to help working families organise the chaos which leaves more time for family bonding.  Please click here to find out how your workplace can take advantage of our expertise.

Setting your child up for success this new school year

It’s the start of another new academic year. My father always used to tell me that each school year is like a fresh blanket of perfect newly fallen snow.  Either you can create a path of neat footsteps or turn it into slush. There have been some big adjustments taking place in our household as my son has finished school and left home to study abroad and my next child has moved into 6th form.  The family dynamics have really changed as I’m now left with 3 girls, less noise and a lot more food in the fridge. Probably a subject for another blog post!

A new school year is the perfect opportunity to set your child up for success. How can you approach things differently this year, to enable family life to run a bit more smoothly, encourage more independence and less nagging, repeating and reminding?  I could probably write a whole book on this but here are just a few practical ideas.

Be proactive, not reactive

The first step requires a change in mindset.  Focus much more on pre-empting problems and planning so things go right, rather than reacting after they have gone wrong.  Our job as parents is to try and set things up from the start so your children can succeed, rather than just hoping for the best.

Be very clear about your rules and expectations

You know your child better than anyone else and you are probably fully aware of the sticky issues that cause either you or child to get upset.  It could be the morning routine, homework, use of screens, bedtime, table manners, social life etc.

When something is bothering you about your child’s behavior and they are being uncooperative, it could be because of a lack of consistency and even you as the parent are not clear what the rules or routines are.  Sit down with you child and make sure they are crystal clear about your expectations.  Establish rules, boundaries or a routine for any problem areas, involve your child in creating these and then follow through consistently.  For young children in particular, it’s helpful to have visual reminders of what they need to do so you are not repeating yourself.

Think through

Talk through any situations, events or changes to the usual routine in advance so your child understands what is happening and what to expect.  This shouldn’t be a lecture but just a short chat where you get your child to do most of the talking and telling you in detail what’s going to happen and what they need to do.  This is also really useful if you have introduced a new rule or routine, keep talking it through as a reminder of what the expectation is before it happens.  For example, “What is the new rule about using your Ipad during the week?  What will happen if you are really tempted and use it on a Wednesday night?”

Role play

This is a fabulous strategy, particularly for young children who learn more by doing.  Role play things like getting ready for bed, walking into a new after school club where you don’t know anyone, getting dressed quickly, turning off the Ipad the first tiem you are asked etc.

Break tasks down into manageable chunks

This helps situations feel less overwhelming.  You also need to be realistic about your child’s tempo which is probably vastly different to yours.

Solution time/ Family meetings

If there is an ongoing problem or area of conflict in your family, set some time to sit down together to discuss it and find solutions.  Don’t spend too long on explaining or arguing about what the problem is.  The focus should be engaging the children in compromising and coming up with ideas to solve it.  Get the children to do the thinking (mine are certainly more creative than I am), show respect for their thinking and write their ideas down.  For example if you are really fed up with arguing and nagging them to do their homework, call a meeting and explain to the kids you want to start the new school year off in a positive way.  Ask them how they can ensure their homework gets done, so they still have time to have fun and do what they want to do, without you having to constantly remind them.

The key to all of this as I explained at the starts is ‘preparing them for success’, empowering them and involving them as much as possible in solutions to potential and repeated problems.

I would love to hear what solutions your kids come up with whatever their age.