Six Back-to-School Tips for Busy Parents
Summer Is Almost Over
Start Planning Now
Summer is almost over, and children will be heading back to school—some within weeks, and most by the end of the month. How can your family transition from those lazy days of summer, of late nights, snacking all day, and fun, to the rigor of a schedule and sitting inside all day?
This article helps you prepare for the upcoming school year without the tears and frustration of the past. With these six easy tips, your family will sail into the school year without a hitch.
Six Easy Tips
1. Start the new bedtime routine two weeks early.
2. Begin buying school supplies now.
3. Create bedtime routines and stick with them.
4. Create a morning routine that everyone understands.
5. Start lunch and meal planning ahead of time.
6. Let the weekends be relaxing.
Get Up a Little Earlier and Everyone Wins
The New Bedtime
1. Create a habit of getting up early at least two weeks beforehand: One of the hardest parts of getting children back into the groove for back-to-school is getting used to the timing. Summer is a lazy time when kids can stay up late, watching the stars or enjoying sleepovers and camping, and then sleep late, without a care in the world. To avoid the fighting that comes with waking your child up early enough to make the first bell, begin transitioning into a new bedtime now.
If you start at least two weeks before the first day of school, then your child will be alert and ready to go when it's time to head out the door. For many working parents, this is already a necessity. Getting kids ready for daycare or a babysitter during the summer means that they are already close to a school schedule. The truth is, getting everyone started a few minutes early will save lots of headaches later on.
Although it can be difficult, especially if you have teenagers, have your children showered or bathed and ready for bed at the school time. Sure, they'll complain and gripe and moan about going to bed while its still light out. But, you are the parent. You are in charge. Yes, it may be inconvenient to start the bedtime routine before summer is even over, but you'll be so glad you did it now.
Children may be cranky about getting up early, and they might wonder what the point is. Their bodies will adjust to the new time, and by the time school starts, they'll be used to the earlier alarm.
Get Your Supplies Early
Buy School Supplies Gradually
2. Begin buying items for school while it's still early: Shopping can be fun. It can also be stressful. There's lines of people battling for the last set of highlighters. Parents push their way through the school supply aisle with the grace of a bull in a china shop, while their children wander aimlessly, picking up every expensive gadget nearby.
There is a better way to purchase your back to school items. You don't necessarily need a list to get started. When you do your grocery shopping, grab one or two items that you know your child will need. Use one of those early mornings, when the kids are wondering why you woke them up, to take them backpack shopping. You don't need to buy everything at once. If you haven't budgeted and don't have a pile of money waiting to be spent, then spreading out the purchases over a few weeks is much easier.
- Get the most important items first. For most children, this is probably the backpack and gym clothes. These are probably the most expensive items. Plan to get these near payday, when you've got some money in the bank.
- Over the course of the next few weeks, pick up one or two items when you do your grocery shopping. Try to hit the store early in the morning or late in the evening, to avoid large crowds.
- Eventually, you can get that supply list, and check for any odd items you may have missed. Chances are, you know what your child needs for school and you know what they like to use. Don't waste money on things you know your kids won't use.
- The last items to purchase can be the things for the entire classroom. Boxes of tissue, large boxes of crayons, hand sanitizer. Your child doesn't have to bring these things on the first day, and the teacher might appreciate a supply drop in October, when things start running short.
End the Day on a Peaceful Note
Create an Evening Routine for Everyone
3. Some simple planning the night before will reduce anxiety and help everyone sleep soundly: Nighttime can be difficult. Many of us have problems falling asleep and/or staying asleep. What is true for adults is also true for children. Anticipation, nervousness, and excitement can all inhibit your child's ability to fall asleep.
Creating a nighttime routine for the family will help transition into peaceful sleep, leading to a more productive and less frantic morning. It might be helpful to put a brief description of the bedtime list on the refrigerator, or somewhere everyone can access and check it. Routines are especially helpful if your family is busy with lots of after school and evening activities. A routine provides a grounding, calming, and centering activity for the entire family.
An evening routine begins hours before actual bedtime:
- Shut off the television.
- Check for any unfinished homework, notes that need to be written, papers that need to be signed. Then place everything together in the appropriate backpacks, bags and purses.
- Check the calendar for the next day's events. Make sure you have what you need (and your kids have what they need) for the day.
- Let your children pick out and set out their clothes for tomorrow. Pick yourself out some clothes while you're at it. Make sure uniforms and gym clothes are clean and ready to go.
- Find keys, money that needs to be handed out, and put it with the appropriate bags.
- While you are gathering items and checking calendars and lists, make sure the TV is off. Turn on some relaxing music or just let there be quiet. Give all of your brains some time to begin shutting down.
- If you own an oil diffuser, place some relaxing oil in it and get it going. It's nice to have one in each child's bedroom. Let them pick the scent they want before bed. This will help signal the brain that it is time for sleep.
- Get everyone who takes an evening bath or shower bathed and into pajamas. Once your children are in their rooms, you can quietly read them a story or talk to them about the high points of their day.
- At the very end of the day, take a moment for gratitude. Ask your child what they are most thankful for. Express what you are most thankful for.
- Plug in all electronics outside of the bedrooms, in the kitchen or somewhere that they won't distract anyone's sleep. You and your child can live for eight hours without checking email, snapchat, texting or facebook. Let your body and mind settle in with quietness and gratitude.
Example of a Morning and Evening Routines
Create a Morning Routine
4. An organized morning helps start the day peacefully: Rather than shaking your kids awake five minutes before the bus arrives, create a morning routine that helps everyone prepare for success for the day ahead.
- First, wake up early enough. Give yourself time before your children start waking up. If you create and follow an evening routine, you'll find your mornings flow smoothly.
- Get breakfast options ready and wake up your kids.
- If they can dress themselves, have them get dressed and ready before breakfast. If your child needs help dressing, get them ready before sitting down for breakfast.
- Go over the day briefly, reminding yourself and your kids of upcoming events. Let them know when and where to expect you. Look over your own calendar to avoid any surprises in your schedule.
- No television in the morning. After breakfast, everyone rinses their own dishes and brushes their teeth.
- While the kids finish last minute tasks, think about what you'll make for dinner. Check for ingredients and make a list of what you need from the grocery. Think about your calendar and when you might make it to the store.
- Backpacks are already loaded and sitting near the door. Once your shoes are on, you're ready to head out.
Planning Meals Makes Life Simpler
Create a Meal Plan
5. Figure out what's for dinner before dinnertime: You don't necessarily need to plan a month or even a week ahead, but some simple meal planning will make the school year, and your life in general, much more manageable. You'll also save money and eat healthier meals if you think ahead.
- First off, make sure you have options for breakfast. Cereal, toast, eggs (hard boiled eggs are especially helpful), yogurt and fruit are some great options to offer your child. Even if they claim not to be hungry, try to get something they will eat. Granola bars are an option, but they tend to be high in sugar. If that's all your kid will eat, however, it's better than going to school on an empty stomach.
- For kids old enough to prepare their own lunches, you can have sandwich ingredients on hand. Or, you can pack lunch for everyone by getting up early and getting it done while everyone is asleep. Put their lunches with their backpacks.
- For dinner, you can make a plan in the morning. If you need to put something in the crockpot for the day, get it done before you leave. If you need to stop at the store, make a list before you head out.
While its much easier to plan on the weekends, this isn't always feasible. Find a method that works for your family, and stick to it. There's nothing worse than getting home at bedtime, without any thought of what you'll eat before you go to bed. Actually, it would be worse to stop at fast food again.
Think ahead. With minimal planning, you can feed your family a healthy meal and save some money too.
Make Time For Fun
Use The Weekend to Regroup and Plan
6. Relax a little: While you may find your weekends crammed full with sports, traveling and church, it's important to leave your family some down time.
Our culture values busy-ness. If you ask just about anyone how they are doing, you're likely to hear some version of, "Oh, we're just great, and so busy." It doesn't matter what day of the week or what time of the year; people are proud of their busy-ness.
It's important for your mental and physical health to take some downtime. This is not a waste of time. This is time for your mind and your body to heal, regenerate and just get back to feeling normal. Even if you have something all day long on Saturday and Sunday, let your evenings be a time to reconnect to your partner, to your kids and to yourself. Make sure everyone has some quiet time, to nap, read or just relax.
Don't force your family into a weekend of frenzied activity. Even if it's fun, it is exhausting. Allow yourselves time to regroup.