A family walking in a neighborhood

UF/IFAS expert has five back-to-school tips for busy families

Randy Cantrell knows how to make things run smoothly. As both a father and a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher who studies how households can live harmoniously, he’s nearly always thinking about how best to keep a family in sync.

Some of Cantrell’s recent research has focused on what he calls “homeflow.” Homeflow measures how well a family works together to maintain an organized living space and routine.

“The family unit and the dwelling are not separate things but part of one system,” Cantrell explained.

With the start of the school year just around the corner, Cantrell recognizes that getting kids ready and out the door is a challenge for many households. Check out Cantrell’s five tips for keeping the peace and establishing your own homeflow.

  1. A great morning starts with the night before.

“There’s no way I can start talking about the first day of school without talking about the night before,” said Cantrell. “I want the whole evening to be about mentally and physically preparing for the next day so that we can wake up and run on all cylinders.”

Cantrell recommends easing your family toward bed time by using quiet activities, such as reading, to calm active minds and bodies. “That way, when we lie down in bed, we are in a state of mind where we can fall asleep easily, and we aren’t tossing and turning all night.”

  1. Establish expectations.

Play up what kids can look forward to, said Cantrell. “Talk about how fun and exciting the next day will be,” he said. “Talk about how we’re going to get a bath tonight and lay out our clothes for the next day.” Cantrell recommends preparing as much as you can the night before, such as making up bagged lunches.

  1. Stagger wake-up times.

“I wake up people at different times based on age and what they need to do that morning,” said Cantrell. That way, those who need more rest get it, and the household gets to slowly wake up rather than being abuzz all at once.

  1. Empower kids with choices.

Being able to choose what they eat for breakfast or what they wear to school empowers kids by making them active participants in the morning routine. Cantrell recommends coming up with a “menu” of preapproved options kids can choose from. “The morning comes with a lot of opportunity—what you’re going to eat for breakfast, what you’re going to wear—and when a child feels empowered to choose, they don’t feel rushed or pushed around,” Cantrell said.

  1. Set an example.

Don’t treat school as a place to dread, said Cantrell. “When I drop the kids off at school, I don’t pull up to the curb, let them off and then pull away,” he said. “I park the car, walk them all the way into the school, greet the teachers in the classroom and give my kids a hug and kiss. This lets them know that they are going to a place where they want to be.”

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Source: Randy Cantrell, 352-273-3554, rcantrell@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Photo