Stress, short-tempers, and the seeming inability of the household to function smoothly are typical signals that you may have slightly overdone it in the commitments department.

So, you overscheduled your family. This does not make you a bad person or a poor parent. Your family simply has a voracious appetite for participation. What’s the harm in that? The only reason to alter your set course is if someone in your clan is physically, mentally or emotionally unable to participate. If you have to pull some plugs for any of these reasons, it’s perfectly okay if you do.

But if you are simply cycling through an extra-hectic time of the year with many activities happening all at once, you are certainly not alone. Whether you see the hectic times coming in advance or only realize the chaos when it is almost upon you, there are some specific strategies you can take as a family that will help you slay the activity-overwhelm dragon before anyone gets burned. See if these tips are helpful:

Call a family meeting. Take charge of the situation as soon as you can by calling a family meeting. Tell everyone to bring their calendars and scheduling tools, if they are old enough to manage their own. Make some beverages, put out some cookies, and go through the upcoming week one day at a time. Now is also time to figure out carpooling, best shopping times, and whether or not it is humanly possible to squeeze everything in.

Make scheduling a weekly event. Some families have formal, complex family meeting but this is not going to help most families because you won’t likely stick with it. Instead, a quick drink and cookie break on Sunday afternoons might just turn into something everyone actually enjoys. At the end of the scheduling session, ask, “Does anyone have anything else they want to discuss?” Soon, you’ll be kicking each week off strong using the power of good, old-fashioned communication.

Create a master calendar. Every person in the family who is old enough to write should have his or her own calendar. Without a master plan you are going to lose track of the big picture. Assign one parent as the keeper of the master plan and keep it updated daily. Put all your critical to-dos on it. Glance at it in the morning and before bed. Much stress will disappear once one person takes on the role of family dispatcher.

Expect everyone to be responsible. Just because you are the dispatcher, does not mean you should manage schedules for kids who are old enough to do it themselves. Taking responsibilities off of your children’s shoulders does not serve them or the family. Who is the weakest link in this scheduling arrangement? Let them know how important good communication is, not just in the family, but also in life in general. Then help them figure out a system that works well for them. Try to make the most of their natural strengths if they are predominantly visual, verbal, aural, physical or logical.

Keep priorities straight. If you are following these suggestions and meeting your family commitments still feels unmanageable, then some things are going to have to give. Don’t look to others to find out where your feelings of overwhelm are originating — look within. Have you let your priorities become confused? When you are a spouse and a parent, your first priorities are the people who live under your roof. If you are taking care of others who are already adults, then it’s time to remember your irreplaceable role to your family. Your family comes first and other commitments come afterwards.

Let the extraneous go. Here’s the secret to a happy life for you and your family: don’t do what you think is expected of you. Do what you want to do. Although peer pressure may still be challenging for your kids, it should be a no-brainer for you. You don’t need to do what the Jones family does. You need to do what your family does. Period. The world needs the unique contributions of every member of your family. And no one is going to blossom if everyone is running around like a bunch of followers. So lead by example and live the life you want to live. Steer your own course and teach your kids to steer theirs. If you do, your kids will follow your lead and be engaged and happy no matter how busy they are — on any given day of any given week.

Books To Help Simplify Family Life

In your down time, if you have any, you can dream up ways to streamline family life by checking out these books:

Simplicity Parenting, Using The Extraordinary Power Of Less To Raise Calmer, Happier, And More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

No Regrets Parenting, Turning Long Days And Short Years Into Cherished Moments With Your Kids by Harley A Rotbart, M.D.

Mindful Parenting, Simple And Powerful Solutions For Raising Creative, Engaged, Happy Kids In Today’s Hectic World by Kristen Race

Family Bucket Lists, Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie Into Every Day By Lara Krupicka

Christina Katz

Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz loves jungle gym slides, water park slides, Slip N’ Slides, and Chutes And Ladders, but not the summer slide.