It’s that time of the year again: Time to rush to get the kids ready in the mornings, to make sure all of their paperwork is filled-out, and to get them to school on-time without missing a shoe. I try to recall memories from my childhood where my mom was running around like a chicken with her head cut off to get things done — just as I do as a parent of a 5th grader and a toddler — but don’t remember her struggling. I’m sure if I asked her, she’d probably ramble on about a list of things she had to do to accommodate my school age years. She handled it so well, it almost seemed easy.
By now, I should be a pro at this back-to-school thing; but, like so many others coming from summer break into a new school year, I’m presented with a set of unique challenges that cannot go ignored. From my experience, getting ready for the first day of school, although stressful, becomes a walk in the park compared to all the days that will follow. The true work starts at getting used to a routine, adjusting your schedules, getting things prepared for the week, helping with homework, and being involved in extracurricular activities. Even though I’ve done all of this in previous years, each school year feels like learning to ride a bike all over again.
There are a several factors that contribute to our feelings of bombardment: a new teacher, new administration, and for some, an entirely new school and classmates; increased traffic and increased homework / subjects. Year after year, like all parents, we learn that things eventually work themselves out. If not, we endure the challenges as they come.
If, you too, are a parent with a really busy schedule, or are raising multiple children in different schools, you’ll know firsthand that we don’t have the liberty to wait for things to work out. We have to get a system going, and fast! If these first few weeks of school have been a little rough for you and your family, don’t worry. There are brighter days ahead.
Here are 6 steps to kick the back-to-school blues for yourself and your children.
- Rethink Bedtimes Everyone needs to go to bed earlier than normal. Although your body and brain responds to adrenaline well, some of us tend to fully rely on operating our lives under the adrenaline microscope. Rest will not only refuel your body, but your children will be easier to deal with in the morning if they are properly rested. If you are having trouble in the morning hitting the snooze button, or dealing with groggy kids, rethink moving the bedtime back in 30 minute increments until you see an improvement across the board. It is recommended that children get 9-10 hours of sleep at night, while adults should rest up to 8 hours. The best way to determine bedtime is to consider the time you all need to wake-up to leave out of the house on schedule. Then, you can subtract the amount of sleep hours needed from that wake-up time.
- Put the Devices Down Substitute evening TV/tablet/social media time for family bonding. Kids love attention, and the best way to show them is by putting all your personal desires aside and focusing on activities that will strengthen the family. Maybe you can play board games, eat dinner collectively to discuss everyone’s day, work on homework, have an early evening stroll around the neighborhood, or do some family reading, anything that doesn’t involve devices. We often ask our children to forgo activities without taking that same advice for ourselves. This is a perfect opportunity to lead by example. It also serves as a time to quiet all of the noises, voices, and opinions of the day in order to focus on your family needs, concerns, and conversations.
- Meal Prep Planning for healthy meals and snacks for your entire family instead of select members save a lot of time. After all, healthy eating is a huge benefit no matter the age. Sunday’s are the best days to meal prep for the week. Although meal prepping can be time consuming due to the volume of meals that must be cooked simultaneously, it will free up much more time during the week by making it easier to pack lunch, and deciding on what to have for dinner.
- Daily Check-in One of the things I like to do with my son is asking about his school day. He may get tired of my asking but, I always lead with a warm greeting followed up by a stream of questions: What was the best part about today? What was the worst part? Did you learn anything new? These four questions while seemingly simple, gives us the chance to have an open dialogue that goes beyond an auto-pilot response. It also builds upon their communication skills. Sometimes the answers are short and sweet, and other times the answers spark excitement. It is an open door to learn something new about my child that I may not have learned had I not asked the question. Whether the response is “good” or “fine,” with little to no detail, it is a healthy way to embark on his or her imagination.
- Homework Check Get in the habit of going over homework, even if it’s already finished. This will inform your children that you expect them to have the work completed. It also establishes that you believe homework is important, as they should, too. Not all school aged children see the importance of homework, but when they are aware of the high bar you set daily, they will not want to disappoint you, nor their teachers. Doing homework is also a great habit that strengthens student accountability because they are expected to complete it on their own, or with help as needed. Like independent study, these types of developmental habits become priceless as your children grow older and, maybe go off to college.
- Hair Goals Last, but certainly not least, create a hair styling routine for mornings. No one feels good about a bad hair day, although they are inevitable. Learning a cute and quick hair style to send them out of the door will morning preserve many outbursts and tears. With so much already on our plates, hair becomes an afterthought which can derail a morning quicker than missing that final alarm clock alert. If your children are old enough to care for and style their own hair, then that leaves more room for everyone to walk out of the door each day looking fabulous!
You see, I may not remember the days my mother was pressured and rushing to get things for back-to-school time, but it does not change the fact that she had her own list of things to do. Raising children is a challenge, and in today’s fast paced society, we are constantly faced with making on-the-spot decisions that have the potential to help or hurt our daily grind. With structure and patience, back-to-school time can be an exciting event if looked upon in a positive light. After all, it is a celebration of your child progressing to the next stage in his or life, and it is a step closer to teaching them how to become future productive adults.