Overview: Guest contributor Lynna Sutherland is a veteran large-family mom who is amazing at keeping things organized and stress-free. Here she shares step-by-step instructions for using Google Calendar with your teen.
Parenting small children requires a lot of energy. The diaper changes. The baths. Carrying or following them everywhere. I think we all imagined that when they got older, things would get easier.
But the fact is that parenting teens requires a lot of energy, too – just in different forms!
With three teen kids taking different classes out of the house, one with his own business and another working part-time at a local restaurant, and everyone's extracurricular activities, I sometimes feel like I've graduated from full-time babysitter to full-time taxi driver!
However, we've found that Google Calendar is an excellent way to manage and coordinate our schedules to keep the chaos to a minimum. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions and ideas for how to utilize this amazing free tool.
How to Set Up and Use Google Calendar with Your Teen
Create a Google account for each person
In order to make use of Google Calendar, you and each of your teens will need their own Google Account. In addition to Google Calendar, this will also come with access to a whole suite of Google apps, like Gmail and Google Docs.
In some of the classes my teens take outside the house, they are expected to have Google accounts in order to be able to receive and share Google Docs or spreadsheets, so it's a resource that will come in handy in a multitude of ways!
Go to Google.com. If you do not have a Google account or if you aren't signed in, in the top right corner, you'll see a button that says “Sign In”. Click it.
If you are already signed into to your own Google Account, you'll see your icon (a small picture of you or maybe one or both of your initials) in the top right corner. Click your icon and then choose “Add New Account”.
A sign-in form will appear. Click on the blue letters “Create account” in the bottom left corner.
Of the three options that appear, choose “For my personal use” and complete the form to create your account.
Note: Your student must be at least 13 in order to have their own Google Account. However, if you want to set up Google Accounts for younger children, you can do so through Google for Families. We won't cover that in this article, but you can read more about it here.
If you don't already have your own Google account, create one for yourself. Once you've completed the sign-in process, repeat these steps for each of your teens so that everyone has their own Google Account.
Learning to use Google Calendar
The first step is for each Google Account owner to learn to use his or her own calendar. Setting up new events and tasks is pretty simple, but I'll show you a few tricks.
In order to access your calendar from Google.com or from any Google app (like Gmail or Google Docs) click on the little square of nine dots next to your icon and select Calendar.
When you first open your calendar, you'll see that the default view is “Week” – you'll see the days of the current week laid out in columns.
Click on “Week” in the dropdown menu in the top right corner to change to “Day” or “Month” or one of a few other options to see the time range that is most helpful for you.
To add an event to your calendar, simply click in the space on the calendar where the event occurs. A new window will pop up giving you the opportunity to put in all of the pertinent details about your event. The most important items are the title of the event and the time frame.
To adjust the date and time, click on the date or the start or end time to update them. If this is an all-day event (like someone's birthday or a holiday) you can check the box that says “All day” (which will show as you click on the times or the “Add time” button), and then you won't be required to choose a start and end time.
One important and extremely useful feature on Google Calendar is the option to set an event as repeating. This is helpful for events that happen regularly — weekly, monthly, or even annually.
To set an event to recur, click on the drop-down menu that says “Does not repeat” and choose one of the options for how frequently this event happens. Or, click on “Custom…” for more detailed options.
One of the settings in the Custom recurring events box that is very helpful is the opportunity to set an end to the recurring task. You can choose “Never,” or a specific date, or a quantity of times it should happen before stopping. For example, if you are scheduling a co-op class, you can choose it to repeat weekly and set the end date as the last class of the year.
Tip: Often times recurring events have exceptions. For example, that co-op class might occur every Thursday from September to May except for Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, and spring break. The quickest way to handle this is to schedule the event to repeat every Thursday between September and May and then go back and delete the few times that aren't needed.
And now we come to the feature that makes Google Calendar truly a life-saver when it comes to managing multiple teen schedules! A quick way to be able to see what's happening on each person's schedule is simply to share calendars with each other.
In the menu on the top right, click the gear icon and then click “Settings”.
Click on Settings, which will open up a new menu. On the left-hand side, scroll down to “Settings for my calendars” and click on the calendar you want to share (you may only have one at this point, but you can easily add more calendars for different aspects of your life — one for home tasks, one for school, one for work, etc.). Then on the sub-menu that appears, scroll down a bit further and click on “Share with specific people.”
You'll have the option to enter an email address of the person you want to be able to see your calendar — this should be the email address of their Google account. You'll also be able to choose the level of control this person can have over your calendar.
The lowest level allows others to see only if you are free or busy at a specific time, but no information about your scheduled events. The highest level allows others to make changes to your events and share the calendar with others. For the purposes of family sharing, I recommend “See all event details”.
Once you have access to other calendars, you'll have the option to toggle various calendars on or off in your calendar view so that you can see as many or as few layers as you need at one time. Just check or un-check any calendar you have permission to view.
You can also change the color of each calendar so you can easily tell at a glance which calendar (or person) the event belongs to. To do this, hover over the name of the calendar and click on the three dots that appear.
The above image also shows you what my calendar looks like when I'm viewing all of the calendars at once! Notice there are several of my own and also some shared from my kids.
Sending invitations to specific events
In addition to sharing your entire calendar, you can also invite people to specific events. Before we get into the details of how to do this, let's talk about why and when you'd want to choose this option.
You'll want to invite people to events when they should be attending that event yet they have lots going on around that time. For example, you might add a family birthday dinner to your calendar and then invite all of your teens to the event so that it will show up on their own calendars, too, and they can be aware of it for planning purposes.
If, however, others don't need to be present for the event, then you don't need to specifically invite them. For example, my daughter puts her work schedule on her calendar. I don't need to be with her at work, but I do need to be aware of her schedule so I can plan for drop off and pick up and know when she'll be unavailable for family activities. In this case, she doesn't need to invite me to the event because I can see it on her calendar.
In order to invite others to an event, click on “Add guests” in the event creation window.
Begin typing the name or email address of the person you want to invite and Google will show a list of suggestions from your contacts. Once you save the event, you can choose whether you want to send a notification to the people you've invited or not. Also, if you change or delete the event, you can choose if you want Google to notify invited guests of the change.
A few extra tips for using Google Calendar with your teen
Here are a few extra strategies to help you make the most efficient use of Google Calendar with your teen:
I definitely recommend that you add the Google calendar app to your phone so that you can reference your schedule and add events on the go.
When you create an event, you can click on the “More options” at the bottom to see a full-screen form where you can further customize your event. Some features you might want to check out:
- Add a notification. Do you want your calendar to remind you in advance of this event? Choose from one of the several options so you won't forget your event!
- Add a location. Enter the location (either a specific address, or the name of a public venue) and when the event time arrives, you'll be able to click on the event to open up directions in Google maps!
- Add details. Did you get an email about this event with important details (like dress code or what to bring)? You can copy and paste that information into the “Add description” box so you'll have all that info handy!
Now that you know how to set up and use Google Calendar with your teen, the possibilities are endless.
You may have been inspired with several more ideas to make use of Google Calendar with your teen. It's a great way to build their autonomy yet still supervise and coach them as they learn how to manage their time and workload. Doctor's appointments? Check. Family events? Check. Lesson plans, deadlines, exam dates, sports events, I-need-you-to-be-home-to-babysit-while-I-go-out-to-lunch-with-my-friends? Double check.
Google Calendar is a free and relatively simple way to keep everyone on the same page without having to nag. Use these instructions to get yourself and your teen set up — and enjoy the results!
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