My heart sank as the first email arrived in my inbox this week indicating that the start of school was closing in. As a working mom, I do enjoy when my children return to school creating a decrease in my mommy guilt and childcare costs. I also know before I get to enjoy the respite of school, I first have to survive all that back to school entails. From medical checkups, school supply shopping and clothes sorting to additional paperwork, calendaring and open houses, the tasks rapidly approaching make we want to repack the suitcase I’ve yet to unpack and return to my vacation destination. My sense of freedom usually doesn’t truly kick in until at least a week or two after they are settled in and I sigh with relief as the rhythm of fall begins. As a professional counselor, I work with clients all the time regarding stress management and back to school is definitely a season that tests even the best time management professional. Below are six tips to help you succeed:
1. Prepare your list. I know it’s so tempting to wait and enjoy those last lazy moments of summer in complete denial but the stores are just going to get more crowded and the deadlines more intense. Beginning at least three weeks before school starts, I make a brain dump of all I know is coming. If I get some of these done each week or even just one a day, that will leave room (or margin) for all the unknowns that surprise me each year. I confess I personally avoid some of this effort by supporting our PTA and ordering from them all of the school supplies packaged together. Some of the details on the brain dumps of mothers I polled include:
- a. School Supply Shopping. If you don’t have a PTA that does it for you or choose to gather items from the posted lists (which are never complete) yourself, you may want to gather a little at a time when you grocery shop and run errands. One mom I know gets a bin for each child in the house and slowly picks up an item here or there with the lists taped to the front. I also love the team effort I can tap into through Facebook. If I can’t find a particular item, I bank on other parents’ great search and find skills to lead me in the right direction. Someone mentioned to me today that they like to wait for tax free weekend. I personally would rather pay the tax and avoid the crowds. If you just can’t pass up the bargain, you might find out when the stores are least crowded but know you will be risking having an item sold out and maybe having to shop at multiple locations.
- b. School Records and Registrations. Whether it’s vaccination updates/waivers or simply getting online to confirm information, getting this done in advance can prevent some late night deadline hitting for moms who tend to procrastinate.
- c. School Breakfast and Lunches. Some really organized parents I know work on school lunch ideas with the kids or freeze some easy healthy breakfasts. If you are not that mom let me relieve some guilt as I confess though that I’ve been known to take advantage of the $1 packaged cheese, meat, cracker and cookie sales that often occur adding fruit, yogurt and cucumbers into the bags to convince myself that it’s not the worst thing ever.
- d. School Calendaring. Place the school calendar dates on your phone or notebook calendar for the year. I love doing this while watching my favorite television show.
2. Prepare their clothes. The malls are going to get crowded and discovering things no longer fit. At the end of July, we try on the clothes we need for school making sure tennis shoes still fit, and creating a list of what needs to be purchased. We then shop online or usually can complete the task with one trip to the mall or discount store. In general, since I live in Texas, I get to coast on this chore waiting until the weather gets colder and letting them wear their summer clothes a little longer.
3. Prepare the schedule. I know I’m not alone in that especially toward the end of summer (actually the entire way through), no one in my home is generally up at six AM. Our school starts are 7:15 and I give my kids plenty of time to wake up gently and avoid the conflict and intensity that comes with, “Hurry up. Did you hear me? I mean now” type of directives. By the beginning of August or when we return from vacation, we slowly start transitioning to earlier bedtimes and mornings. Sleep is a vital part of emotional stability and academic success. My children are at the age they are need a minimum of a good nine hours of sleep so we start this process slowly so I don’t have to wake what appears to be the dead on that first week or two.
4. Prepare their minds. I know some amazing homeschooler and moms in general who intentionally keep learning thriving through the summer. This scattered girl always has great intentions but what actually occurs is more of a sprinkle of a few math problems and trips to the library than a well-structured delivery. As school approaches, it might be a good idea to just encourage a little reading and math so they don’t return with eyes glazed over and in shock as they try to jump start brains that might have endured a reduced amount stimulation.
5. Prepare them socially. Many of us take advantage of summer to catch up with family and friends we don’t see during the school year. Your child may have lost some connections during the summer but children often thrive when they return to new classrooms and teachers from the added confidence of supportive friendships. The weeks before school starts, we try and get a few of the girls together for my daughter and boys for my son so they can walk in the door with renewed connections. These playdates are even more important when starting a new school. I loved a recent social media post I saw from a new mom in town asking for summer playdates so her children will already have a head start when they enter the elementary school doors for the first time. I also remind my own kids of loyal friends from last year and to seek them out during their recess time. I tell them I look forward to hearing how “so and so’s” summer went which directs them to show interest in others and reconnect.
6. Pray God’s blessing on their year. If you are spiritually minded, praying is a great practice to add into your routine with them and for them. I pray Scriptures like that they would grow in wisdom, and stature, and favor with men. I pray for their teachers and peers. I pray for the school leadership and that all of us would be blessed to be a blessing. I can’t walk through the hallways every moment with them but I know the One who can. I pray that they will sense His presence with every breath and interaction. We not only pray at night or at meal times but also in the carpool line (eyes open – I promise.)Finally, grab onto those last precious moments of freedom and a little less activity and breathe. It all doesn’t have to be done in one day. One task a day may very well keep the back to school stress away.
(first shared on http://www.mybjswholesale.com/2016/08/want-zero-stress-getting-kids-back-school-try.html/)
for practical advice regarding parenting and a variety of mental health topics.