With school and fall sports on the horizon again, family schedules ramp up this time of year. With all your running to and from practices, rehearsals and clubs, plus all the usual homework to manage after hours, how can a busy family find time to relax and reconnect?

Here are some suggestions from your friends at Faithgirlz for planning family time during busy life seasons.

Schedule it. The rest of your calendar is built on agenda items, so why not do the same for family time? Block out one evening per week to spend together, non-negotiable. Then plan to do something fun as a family, whether that’s going somewhere special like a bowling alley or mini-golf, or simply playing board games at home with a bowl of popcorn on the table. It doesn’t matter what you do so much as the fact that you’re just doing it.

Make the most of meal time. Choose at least one meal a day when everyone sits down together. For some families, dinnertime is the most divergent hour of the day, with one parent working late, one child at an after-school job, another at football practice, and still another is just waking up from naptime. If that’s the case for your family, then try making breakfast time your daily pow-wow. Or set aside a “tea time” for bedtime snacks and conversation every evening at 8 o’clock, once all the kids (and parents!) are settled back at home. These quick sessions of togetherness on a regular basis are vital to staying connected and aligned.

Join ‘em. If one child is committed to a soccer tournament, bring the rest of the family along to cheer. When your tween dances in the school talent show, make sure all her siblings are in the audience. And if Mom or Dad takes a business trip, make it a family vacation if you can—or at least gather around the iPad for nightly FaceTime from afar. The point is to look at activities that might divide you and turn them into opportunities to unite you instead.

Be available. Sometimes meaningful conversations can’t be scheduled or predicted. Often tweens will want to talk when they’re ready to talk, whether that’s on the drive to piano lessons or while you’re emptying the dishwasher together or—it never fails—at bedtime, when mom and dad are exhausted. Try to be open and receptive to conversation whenever your daughter invites it. It’s not necessarily the planned activities but the spontaneous moments that build strong