Riiiiing! It’s that exciting time of year again! The time when kids get back to their usual routine; the time when parents get to stop stressing about how to entertain the kids every day.
Back-to-school time is enjoyable in many ways, but it’s also stressful. Both kids and parents have to adjust to a new schedule; there are organizational challenges; you have to buy new clothes and supplies; and many kids are starting the year at a brand new school. It’s a lot to deal with for everyone involved!
Planning ahead makes the process go much more smoothly. Here are nine tasks parents should try to accomplish before and during back-to-school time.
- Ease into a school year schedule
One of the hardest things about this time of year is re-adjusting to the school schedule. However, simply making your kids go to bed an hour earlier—and, of course, waking up earlier too—is not an easy task. Your kids will likely be unhappy about the earlier bedtime and they may not fall asleep very easily; you don’t want to be bickering with your kids about bedtime the night before school and you certainly don’t want them to be tired and cranky on their first day.
Instead, spend a couple weeks easing the kids back in to the school year schedule. Gradually begin waking your kids up earlier and have them go to sleep earlier, as well. Don’t forget mealtimes, too! Start having breakfast and lunch around the same time as meals during the school year.
- Visit the school
Even if you’re not changing schools, it’s worthwhile to visit the school before the first day. Maybe the parking situation has changed, for example. Or perhaps the drop-off area is different than it was last year. Bring your kids along too; seeing the school a few days before school starts may help ease their first-day anxieties.
- Create a central calendar
The school year is packed with activities—school functions, playdates, dance lessons, and so forth. Planning and organizing everything can be overwhelming.
Make your life a lot easier by creating one calendar, or one file—whatever works for you—for all calendars and schedules. The school calendar, your son’s soccer practice, your daughter’s music lessons—keep everything in one place. You can buy a paper calendar with large squares where you can write everything happening on each day, or you can use an online calendar. Use tools like color coding to organize it even further.
While this may take some work at least initially, it will save you a lot of time and headaches down the line.
- Prepare a study area in your house
Homework is a top priority, so make sure you have a dedicated area in your house for projects and homework. Inform children of any rules for the area and make sure the study area is distraction-free.
- Make healthy meals
Not only is healthy food good for your children’s bodies, but research shows that kids who eat healthy breakfasts and lunches do better in school. If you need some help in providing your kids with nutritious meals, you can find out if your family qualifies for the National School Lunch Program here.
- Get a check-up
Back-to-school is a good time to take your kids to the doctor and get a check-up. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and the school may ask you to show proof that your child has had all of his necessary shots and vaccines. Be sure to keep your own copies of your child’s medical records, as well.
- Create calm mornings
Mornings before school can be chaotic. Reduce the craziness by planning ahead the night before. For example, when you clean up after dinner, set the table for breakfast too. Choose the children’s clothes the evening before. Make sure the kids have all their homework, books, and school supplies ready before you go to bed.
If your kids tend to fight over bathroom use, consider creating a bathroom schedule so that the kids have a dedicated time they can use the bathroom.
- Gather important papers
Back-to-school time seems like a never-ending flood of papers and documents. Avoid stressful moments and collect and organize important papers before school starts. Gather immunization records, proof of medical exams, report cards from last year, and anything else you think you may need for the upcoming year, and keep them in one central place.
- Plan your school shopping
Before you hit the stores, look in your children’s closets and assess what they have, what they need, and what you can give (or throw) away. Clean and organize your children’s closets and drawers before adding more clothes to them.
And try to shop early! Many stores have back-to-school sales starting in the middle of July, and the earlier you go, the better selection of clothes and school supplies you’ll have.
While it’s probably impossible to avoid back-to-school stress completely, planning ahead and getting organized before the school year starts can save you (and your kids) a lot of time and anxiety. Collect and organize important papers, create a central calendar, plan your back-to-school shopping trips before you go, and get ready for school the evening before. In addition, schedule check-ups, create a study area in your house, and try to make healthy meals for your kids. The work you do now will pay off big-time!