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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Ways to “Have a Happy Weekend” (Family Version)

When chores, sporting events, and kids' birthday parties are taking over your life, here's how to make time for what matters—and have a great weekend.

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Schedule isn’t a dirty word

While taking to time to plan may seem like the quickest way to ruin your weekend, according to Sarah Allen, Ph.D., it’s the best way to make sure everything gets done without cramming everything in at the last minute on Sunday night. “Sit down with your partner on a Friday evening and break the weekend into six blocks: Saturday morning, afternoon, and evening and then the same for Sunday,” explains Dr. Allen. “Write a list of to-dos and who is going to be responsible for what and then schedule them into the blocks of time.” Creating a block schedule helps couples decide together what needs to get done and how best to use the time they have left to spend with the family.

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Talk out the to-dos

You and your partner may have entirely opposite expectations for the weekend, so it’s best to talk about it before the weekend gets underway. “Many women keep the to-do list in their heads and not written down. Meanwhile their partner is blissfully unaware and is looking forward to a relaxing weekend because they think they don’t have anything to do,” says Dr. Allen. “This leaves the woman overwhelmed and probably irritated that she has to do ‘everything.'” To avoid one partner feeling overwhelmed and the other feeling ambushed, it’s smart for both to make your expectations known.

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Make little moments matter

Just because you have a busy weekend ahead, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the time you are spending together. When you have a lot of life maintenance chores that must get done on the weekend, Charlotte Howard, Ph.D, suggests creating small, but meaningful, routines and really enjoy being in the moment together. “Pay more attention to how meaningful those smaller moments are, things like making pancakes together and talking about what you want to do.”

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Schedule some alone time

It’s OK if you don’t want to spend every waking hour of your weekend with your family. In fact, Dr. Allen believes that each parent should get a little alone time every single weekend to partake in a favorite hobby or just read a book. “We all need a bit of alone time to de-stress or else life is one long drudge punctured by exhaustion,” she says. “Some alone time for each parent to do whatever they want is a must; exercise, meet a friend for coffee, or even play video games if that’s your thing.”

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Keep it simple

“You had kids because you wanted a family, so slow down and enjoy them by doing something fun together,” encourages Dr. Allen. Family time doesn’t have to be a big, orchestrated activity that takes up an entire day. Dr. Allen encourages families to keep it simple. Spend a little time in the yard kicking around a soccer ball or break out a board game. Check out these fun water games you can play during the summer and keep these tips for family snow day activities handy when the weather turns cold.

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Make partner time

Spending time together as a family is great, but time spent together as a couple is just as essential, and it doesn’t have to be costly or even involve a babysitter. Dr. Allen suggests sending the kids to bed a little early to create couple time. If you are planning a next date night in, be sure to check out these romantic dinner recipes you and your partner will love.

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Accept the things you cannot control

We all have high hopes for our weekend time and the time we spend with our families, but if your expectations are too high, you may be creating unnecessary stress. Instead of focusing on the frustrating aspects of what you didn’t get to do each weekend, Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, suggests learning to practice acceptance will make you feel happier. “Make a list of what you can control in the situation, like getting enough sleep and eating well, and what you can’t control, like your kid having a temper tantrum,” she suggests. “Focus on what you can control to make change and accept what you cannot control.”

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Minimize the distractions

While there’s nothing wrong with a little screen time every now and then, losing yourself for hours in a technology rabbit hole can rob you of your happy weekend. If spending too much time on your smartphone or in front of the TV is a temptation, Hershenson suggests putting the phone away or turning off the screens.

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Make a bucket list

When Saturday morning rolls around, are you unsure of how to fill your time with the family? Create a bucket list of all the things you want to try together. Sit down together as a family and put pen to paper, dreaming up the most unique and adventurous ways to fill your weekends. They might be big things, like hiking a mountain together, or smaller but significant things, like visiting the farmer’s market. The key to making a bucket list is to totally blue sky your ideas, and let nothing hold you back. You may not be able to do everything on your list tomorrow, but you’ll have fun trying new things with the family — and having adventures together with your partner keeps your relationship going strong.

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Don’t overbook sports and kids’ parties

If you find that birthday parties and sports activities are continually eating into family time, set some healthy boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say no to anything that stands in the way of happier weekends together. Mary Wilhoit, a mom of five, avoids school sports altogether and only attends parties if they’re hosted by other family members. Doing this allows her crew to keep their weekends free for family time, like their favorite Saturday morning tradition of enjoying coffee and donuts together.