When my kids were little, keeping tabs on where they needed to be was basically a one-person job. As long as their appointments were on my calendar, all was well. I could keep Timm in the loop, and our family ran smoothly.
It was not too many years later when it became glaringly obvious that calendar maintenance and inter-family communication could no longer be managed solely by me. Today I want to share how my family solved the problem of keeping up with everyone’s events as well as communicating all the events and obligations between the six of us.
For us, calendars became complicated when my oldest entered middle school. Combined with my husband’s travel schedule, my work schedule (which includes evening events from time to time), and lots of unspoken expectations from all six of us, it created a complicated recipe for disaster. Who is picking up whom? Why did you double book Saturday afternoon? I didn’t know you were going to be out of town. Is she babysitting that evening? Can we say yes to a dinner invitation?
I felt like overnight our schedule went from reasonably full (four kids is never going to be anything but full) to full-on chaotic. Our biggest conflict would ensue when I would know the details of our kids’ schedules, but my husband would not. Or, he would know their orthodontist appointments, and I wouldn’t. The back and forth was driving both of us nuts. Then, when our children entered high school and began to manage their own time and responsibilities, the web of communication became even tougher to keep straight.
The solution for our family? Creating a shared digital family calendar.
Regardless of our preferences for managing our personal calendars (I prefer a paper planner, my husband prefers only digital), we all had to agree to diligently use the shared family calendar as part of our responsibility to each other. We chose to use Google calendar, but this idea would work for Apple calendar as well.
The rules for our Family Calendar are as follows:
If you are in high school or older, you are responsible for adding your own events to the Family Calendar. If you don’t enter the event onto the calendar, you forfeit our ability to drive you where you need to go or even your ability to attend. Communication is the highest value, and we all need to know what is going on. My husband and I are responsible for entering events for our middle schooler and ourselves.
If the event impacts or potentially impacts anyone other than you, the event has to be entered into the Family Calendar. For our kids this includes games, practices, social events, youth group, school holidays, and babysitting. For my husband and me this includes travel, night-time events, late afternoon meetings (that would impact our ability to pick up children from school), and social events.
Things that don’t get entered into the Family Calendar include events or deadlines that really don’t impact anyone else. We don’t all need to see that Timm has a lunch meeting or Norah has a chemistry test. I don’t enter my daytime work details on the family calendar because it doesn’t impact anyone else.
When you enter an event on the Family Calendar, details are important. Include the location, the end time, and any other helpful information such as, “I have a ride home” or “We are picking up Hallie” or “We need to bring a dessert.”
When we began to use the Family Calendar, two beneficial things happened. First, we all could quickly and easily see what was going on with each other and whether or not we could say yes to requests for our time. Our communication woes were quieted, and it became very easy to manage the logistics of our busy family.
Secondarily, our kids began to learn how to manage their time and communicate in a group setting, becoming aware that their commitments impacted people other then themselves. Learning to use a calendar is a necessary life skill with real world consequences, and the family calendar became an ideal place to do so.
The idea of using a Family Calendar is not ground-breaking, but it is one of the tiny shifts that has had major positive impacts in our family. As my older two children have left the nest and are navigating life at college, they understand how to manage their time and how important it is to communicate with others.
As we dive back into a new school year, I hope this idea provides a helpful way to think about managing your family’s busy calendar!