Tips For Coping With Temporary Changes In Family Life

Coping With Change
Today’s guest post comes from Deb who blogs at Science@Home and also her new blog Educating Deborah. Deb is usually an an ex-(paid)science teacher and SAHM to two girls. I love reading Deb’s blog because as someone who thinks she doesn’t know much about science, Deb explains it in ways that even I can easily teach my kids. Her recent post A River of Icing is a brilliant example of this:

Have you ever really looked at a river? How it twists and turns and meanders rather than going straight? The reason why is very simple – the ground isn’t perfectly flat and every little bump acts like a hill to turn the water. We modelled this using a cake, icing and lollies, then got to eat them afterwards!

But today on Planning With Kids Deb is talking planning and organisation when your family life changes for a short time!


You know how it is, you’re sailing along happily in your routine. You meal plan, you read the blog, you have the book, you are a disciple the Planning Queen would be proud of. Or at least you’re getting there.

And then something happens. Maybe someone gets sick, or goes away, or even good news like a holiday. Unfortunately it throws everything out, but it isn’t going to be long enough to warrant a whole new routine.

My husband goes away every couple of months for his job and I’ve been meaning to do something to decrease the chaos when he’s away, but never really got to it because it’s only a few days. But then I got asked to work at school part-time for seven weeks. It was very exciting, because working with teachers is one of the things I want to do through Science@home, but it was a big commitment and far too long to play it by ear. So here are some of the tricks we used to modify our routines and make it easier to negotiate the changes.

1. Go easy on yourself

The first and absolute most important tip is give yourself permission to not do it all.  Our household routine is based around two adults, one of whom is at home during the day. You can’t suddenly take part of that equation away and keep going as if everything is normal. I know that single parents or working households do it, but they are starting from a completely different routine to us. If we are going to be in that situation we’ll need to make some changes, and in the short term the easiest way to do that is to leave some things until later.

2. Prioritise

Once you have accepted you don’t have superpowers, you need to prioritise which tasks you can leave. There are two parts to this – which bits will drive you mad if you don’t do them, and which bits are easy to do. I’ve found it works to do a mix of the essential and the easy. The essentials will make life run more smoothly, but for some reason they seem to be the difficult ones or the ones I hate most. Doing some of the easy jobs lets me have a feeling of accomplishment and tick things off. Never underestimate the importance of small achievements in making you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

Which things you decide are important or easy will depend on your personal preferences. Would you rather a clean bedroom or kitchen? Do you still make the kids’ lunches every day or is the canteen an option? Or is this the time they can start making their own?

There might also be ways you can rearrange the essential tasks. I generally like to do housework during the day with my toddler, but while I’ve been working she’s been spending a lot of time amusing herself in Daddy’s office. So we rearranged the routine to give her attention when I’m at home and instead do a big clean all together on the weekends.

3. Shortcuts

Now that you’ve worked out which bits have to be done and when, are there any shortcuts you can use? We very rarely use our tumble dryer in our normal routine because I enjoy getting outside to hang the washing. But it’s certainly had a workout in the last few weeks! Little things like buying an extra 7-pack of underwear or a few more socks could mean you don’t need to wash as often. For older kids this might be the prompt to set up car-pooling to school or activities. And if your little ones aren’t rolling in the mud, do they need a shower every night?

I suspect most of us have a love/hate relationship with packets of snacks from the supermarkets. They’re convenient, but is it really what you want to put in your kid’s lunchbox every day? When you know that it is for the short term, perhaps the answer should be yes.

4. Planned leftovers and pantry days

Feeding the hungry hordes needs its own point, because it’s such a large part of having a happy household of children. Takeaway may sound like fun, but in reality you begin to long for some nice crisp veges. We’ve been doing quite well with planned leftovers and pantry days.

By planned leftovers I mean those meals where it’s easy to cook extra to freeze. It takes the same time and effort to cook enough bolognaise for two meals, then you have the second meal almost ready to go. Casseroles work especially well, and if you’re in the freezing cold with us the slow cooker is perfect. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal either, we quite often brown a large amount of mince then divide it and put it in the fridge to be used later in the week.

Pantry meals are the meals you can make with your pantry staples, for the emergencies when you didn’t get to the shop. It’s always worth having the ingredients for one or two meals you know everyone will eat on hand, even if it consists of tinned vegetables and pasta. Some tins of corn, tomatoes and beans may save you from the dreaded vegemite toast for dinner.

5. Build in rewards and downtime

Even if you’ve mastered step 1, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things that aren’t being done. It’s important to build in rewards and downtime. And if you’re doing it all on your own or have other emergencies in your life it’s even more important. Friday night is our reward night, the girls know when Daddy’s away we will have takeaway as a picnic in the living room and all snuggle in to watch a movie. It’s a happy way of ending the week, having a night off from the extra jobs and spending a bit of time together that we may have missed earlier in the week.

6. Look for the positives

Finally, look for the positives. Routines and systems are a great way of keeping life running smoothly and fitting everything in, but people and life are constantly changing and they need to be reviewed. A bit of temporary chaos can give you the opportunity to try new things or push you into finding a different way. While I’m very glad that school is over and I can go back to a more flexible work routine, there are some things that worked well over the last few weeks and I’m going to keep.

Do you have some tips that keep life going smoothly when you have temporary changes?