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My husband and I both work full-time(ish) — we always have — so we’ve had a unique relationship with mornings and nights. Since that’s the only time we get with our kids during the week, we’ve really been through a series of trial and error to try to figure out how to optimize this time period. Because really, they can be THE most stressful times of day — if you allow it.

Mornings set the tone of our day, so it’s critical to lock down a good routine for yourself, but just as important, nights are about quality time together, winding down as a family, and wrapping up the day on a good note.  However, it’s tricky! Because you may only have 3-4 hours form when they/you get home to when it’s bedtime and during that time period you have to fit it ALL in — dinner, homework, family time, bath time, etc.

I could get into the weeds of chore charts, dinner menus, routine specific suggestions, etc., but it’s really dependent on your family. What I want to provide you with is a FRAMEWORK with key foundational elements that will set you up for success so that you can enjoy your nights together as a family and feel like you’ve also got your sh*t together.

Overtime, these are the things that have been the ultimate game changers for us at night:

MEAL PLAN. The most basic and easiest form of meal prepping is planning. Spend 20 minutes every Sunday writing your meals for the week. Make sure you have a dinner plan for each night of the week and document it somewhere for everyone to see. And as a side note — keep it easy. This isn’t the season of life for breaking Martha Stewart records. {Another bonus in documenting and sharing the weekly dinner menu is giving kids the opportunity to see what’s coming. No complaints!}

ALL HANDS ON DECK. Get the family involved in household chores and responsibilities to help with the nightly routine. Create a checklist of things that each family member can help with. This is good leverage to have in order to earn play time with friends (i.e. no playground until the dishwasher’s emptied and clothes are out away).

ROUTINE. It’s helpful for everyone to know what to expect. Create a structure for the family that’s repeatable, including homework time, a general time for dinner, reading, family time, and lights out. This creates predictable rhythm in the home and fosters a sense of calm all around.

BE FLEXIBLE. Wait, what about routine?! This is more about the internal game. Know that (more often than not) whatever you do — shiz is going to hit the fan. Embrace it. Know that it’s SO SHORT in the bigger picture and you’ll eventually miss these days.

MOVEMENT. Those kiddos sit A LOT during the school day and I find that they need to be active — otherwise, we get behavior problems. Take at least 30 minutes to play outside, take a walk, or just dance in the kitchen! It helps sooth the tension and gets the endorphins pumping.

… and remember, fill in the details as it relates to your situation.