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Evening Checklist
10 Steps to a Stress-Free Evening

The workday's done. The school dismissal bell has rung. It's the time of day most families cherish, when they can gather together and relax for a while.

But how do you accomplish everything that needs to get done and still manage to connect as a family? To help you accomplish both important goals, we've created an after-school, after-work game plan. There are no complicated plays or strategies, mind you—just 10 simple tips to restore calm to the evening and ease you into a brand-new day.

1. Provide a snack when kids come home. That way, no growling stomachs will interrupt you when you're trying to set the table or return a phone call.

2. Offer children after-school options. If they're old enough, let them decide if they want to do their own thing before dinner—play, listen to music—or finish their homework and chores first.

3. Plan simple meals. To slip in extra nutrition with no fuss, use frozen vegetables and pre-cut lettuce. If your children are involved extracurricular activities, occasionally opt for breakfast foods at dinner, which saves time when you need to leave in a hurry.

4. After dinner, enlist cleanup help from family members. Even younger children can carry their dishes to the sink or put away the ketchup.

5. Check backpacks for any notes, permission slips or order forms that need signing. Your kids should organize their packs for the next morning.

6. Have your children do homeworknear you so you're on hand for help. When everyone's done, take a few minutes together to go over the next day's schedule.

7. Help your children select the next day's outfit. Lay out everything from underwear to barrettes the night before to avoid indecision in the morning.

8. Set a timer 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime so kids know to stop what they're doing, and you won't have to debate how long they can stay up.

9. Once kids are asleep, pack lunches, sort the mail and pick up items strewn around the house. This will help keep things in control the next day and into the weekend.

10. Now that everything's quiet, spend time with your spouse. Reconnect by talking about things that are important to you rather than just the details of the day.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education