Free Parenting Tools
The best things in life are free, but children and their upkeep do not fall into that category, excluded as they are solely on the cost of their food and clothing (never mind their entertainment). Fortunately, we live in a time of digital access to resource guides for a lot of that care. Kids really are the apex of the “best things” pile and, with the right tools, you can build yourself some time to actually just enjoy being a parent.
Tools to Get Organized
Of all the tools in your parenting toolbox, your calendar is your best friend. Paper or digital, you can’t do without it. It informs and organizes and reminds us of all those appointments and meetings and deadlines we simply cannot miss. And, because of all these services it performs, it gives peace of mind.
Life with children gets ridiculously busy. A calendar provides a structured schedule; a bird’s eye view of how the next stretch of your time will shape up.
Perhaps the most popular digital calendar is the free one offered by Google. It is part of the apps package included when you sign up for a free email account and it is simply marvellous. After setting up your own calendar, you can add separate calendars for each household member and colour code them. Then you can share individual events or your entire calendar with whomever needs to know its contents.
Your child (and you) can check it to stay on top of homework, chores and family events. Best of all, Google calendar sets reminders which you can tailor to your family’s needs. Learn how to make the most out of this essential tool in this easy to follow video tutorial by Teacher’s Tech.
Another great resource is your municipality’s calendar. It’s not just for checking holiday garbage pickup anymore—in it you’ll find free family-oriented events year round, often with links to the event’s description so you can decide well in advance if it’s a good one for you and your crew. Roadworks, civic holidays and municipal government meetings will all appear here so you may plan your daily life to best advantage.
Your child’s school’s calendar is also a must have in your digital reference library. Don’t rely on your kids to tell you things—they won’t, and not just because they’re being secretive. Students have had enough of school by the time they get home. The upcoming parent-teacher meeting is your responsibility to remember, not theirs.
Superimpose your work calendar over each one to find problematic overlaps well in advance of the date. Future you will be so very grateful.
Apps developer Andrew Lancaster has gathered a curated bundle of the best free co-parenting apps out there today. Perhaps the most valuable among them is the Easy Parent Communication Plan from Timtab.com.
The premise of this app is that all communication is written—no phone calls or in-person chats. This approach keeps a common shared history on the record and gives each party time to consider their words before sharing them. This practice will lead to the app’s main goal, conflict-free co-parenting with no drama and ensuing collateral damage. It works even with just one parent signing up and adopting the plan’s structured communication style.
Clear, business-like writing is required as is sharing the outcome of those communications with your child, the main party impacted by parental decisions. The app also encourages respecting the authority of each parent while the child is in their custody, supporting cross over activities, and ceasing all arguing in favour of accepting to disagree or going through mediation to find a solution.
One of the biggest worries you have as a parent is the health and well-being of your children. You want them to be happy and carefree, but this will not always be the case. When something isn’t right, accessing the appropriate healthcare resources in a timely fashion is the next natural step to take, but not all parents have the same ability to do so.
In the United States, access to healthcare (and the quality of that healthcare) is governed mainly by income. The wealthy stay healthy and the poorer must make do with whatever they can afford. To offset this inequity, various organizations have set up programs to help out lower income families. Go online and research what is available in your area using “free” and “subsidized” as keywords.
Free mental health resources are becoming more prevalent as awareness grows around the topic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report as of March, 2021 that in the United States, 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years have received an ADHD diagnosis; 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years have a diagnosed behavior problem; 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed anxiety; and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed depression.
Seek treatment if your child’s behaviour is affected to the point of causing serious changes in their learning, everyday interactions or handling of emotions. The first step is talking with their primary healthcare provider, most likely your family doctor. You can also use the links below for guidance:
In the USA: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/
Fitness and Activity Resources
General healthcare can be costly, so prevention is your best approach. Eat healthy, stay active and avoid junk food and poor oral hygiene, both of which lead to a host of health problems. Happily, staying active can be done for free and made a lot of fun with a little imagination. Check out this list from Waterford.org to get your family moving and giggling and groaning with glee.
Or you can pick and choose from this list of wellness apps put out by Hello magazine to keep your crew on track.
Don't Forget the Library
A library card for each member of your household will unlock a treasure trove of resources, from internet connection to tool loan privileges to a safe, quiet place for your kids to do their homework. Each local library offers different free programs and resources, so check yours out to learn what’s available.
Parenthood can be daunting and feel quite isolating at times, and a work-life balance impossible to find. Absolutely every parent or guardian has felt this more than once. Do not despair – solutions are sometimes just a click or three away.
Written by Jane Thornton