It’s the night before back to school and you’re:
a) Shopping for 3x3 pastel colored post-its and pre-sharpened #2 Ticonderoga pencils
b) Nagging your kids to finish up their back to school assignments and get to bed
c) Reading a good book with a glass of wine
I’ve personally done all three and – obviously – option c wins every time.
As the summer nights start to cool down and we’re close to trading the pool for school, the thought of heading back to school strikes fear into almost every parent’s heart. While we (well parents, mostly, not the kids) are excited to get back to the routine of school, the thought of homework, sports, and all those September activities can overwhelm even the most organized of parents.
Below are The Working Parent’s Guide top five tips to avoid the stress of back to school with some easy to use tools that’ll make your life easier.
1) Plan ahead
Back to school is a marathon, not a sprint. Prepare for it by getting a jump start on supply shopping, haircuts, etc. a few weeks before the first day of school. This will help you ease into the year and identify any challenges (like the fact that this Unicorn Composition Notebook, which is super cute, btw, might become backordered on Amazon.)
Now’s also a great time to add all of those important concerts, field trips, and back to school nights to your calendar so you don’t miss a thing. We love Google calendar.
Here’s The Working Parent’s Guide’s Back to School Checklist to help you get organized.
And don't forget to save time to take pictures on the first day. Here are some handy printable First Day of School signs.
2) Create easy to follow daily routines
Those first few weeks of school are a bit of a whirlwind. An easy to follow daily more and afternoon/evening routine – for you and the kids – puts those rote tasks on autopilot and sets the stage for a successful school year.
We put our routines in plastic sleeves (Morning on one side, Afternoon & Evening on the other) and the kids complete each step until it's automatic.
3) Keep important information in one location
September brings So. Much. Paper. Like an entire forest full. Welcome letters, permission slips, safety procedures, important dates, website signups.
Identifying one spot to house it all is critical. We use a command center, with a section for each kid, but others snap pictures and keep them in a virtual photo album. It doesn’t matter what system you use, as long as you have one.
We also like to keep key contact information for the year on our refrigerator so it's easy to access.
4) Teach your kids to make their own lunch
I will sing this from the rooftops for as long as I live. Teaching my kids to make their own lunch – and to do it at night – eliminated 90% of my morning stress. Seriously. And before you think it can’t be done, my 5-year-old did it all last year. She was so proud of herself. I promise, if my wild animals can do it, so can yours.
Make a list of ideas that your kids can use to pack a lunch that’s more than just Oreos and fruit snacks.
5) Plan a few easy meals for the first week
I stock supplies for a few go-to dinners that are fast and easy to make during that first week. Tacos, one-pot chili, sausage and peppers, make your own pizza, or hot dogs, fries, and cucumbers make for easy dinners. (We’re also loving a fresh smoothie for a quick and healthy breakfast.)
Create a list of 3-5 easy ideas and use them during that first week back to school. Take out is another awesome option.
And, there you have it. Back to school with less stress.
If you're feeling ambitious, reading your child a few books with back to school themes helps ease the anxiety of that first day. Here are a few our favorites.
Danielle Pickens is the founder of The Working Parent’s Guide, the working parent's go-to resource for simplifying, streamlining, and savoring your life. She’s personally tested everything she recommends on her 3 fun-loving kids, her good-sport husband, and her friends and colleagues through her role as Chief Program Officer at a national education nonprofit.
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