Every year you know it’s coming, but it still catches you off guard and unprepared – off-balance. The start of the new school year. (cue the theme from “Jaws”)
It’s not just shopping for school supplies and new clothes that causes the stress. Sure, you’re more than ready for your little darlings to head back to class (no more choruses of “I’m bored” “There’s nothing to do”, but that means a complete change in the entire family’s schedule, structure and routine. And nothing upsets the balance of a family more than change.
But don’t panic! There’s still time to ease into it. Here are just a few tried and true tips you can do right now to get you – and the entire family – ready and prepared. Trust me; you can still start the new school year with more balance!
1. Find a great family calendar
This is the single most important thing you can do right now to keep your sanity during the school year. Nothing messes up a family more than not knowing when Luke’s soccer practice ends and Emma’s dance recital starts and who forgot it was their turn to drive carpool. No matter what superpower you have, you simply cannot keep this all straight without help. Whether it’s an app on your smartphone or a big dry-erase board hung on your pantry door, find something that works for you and your whole family. (I’m researching which family calendar apps people love – click here if you want to be part of this survey)
2. Take time off work
Talk to your boss now and take off at least the first day of school – if not the first couple of days – to help ease everyone into the new routines. Especially if your kids are starting at a new school, knowing you’re there and available will reduce their stress. For the little ones, you might want to walk them to school or to the bus stop the first few days. For high schoolers, you might have to hide behind a tree, but deep inside, even though they won’t admit it, they really do appreciate having you there.
3. Do a practice run
For some reason, it always seems to take longer to get out of the house when you’re trying to leave for school. That’s when shoes go missing, the cat pukes on your clean shirt, and you drop your lunch in the driveway. Try to reduce that added stress during the first week of school by practicing. Practice the whole routine – shoes and all – a few days before the first day. Make sure everyone knows how much time it really will take to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, find the shoes and drive to school. Make sure you do the dry runs at the same time you’ll be leaving during the school year – traffic in Chicagoland is completely different at 7:30am than at 10:30am.
4. Set up that homework area now
When I was young, we never got homework the first week of school. Not the case anymore! So, be prepared before it even starts. Don’t wait until your daughter has “like, 12 papers due and 3 tests tomorrow” to get that homework area set up. Get the paper, pencils and other school supplies handy. Test the lighting so they have no excuse not to read. Clear off the clutter and make it as comfortable as possible – without encouraging napping on the math book.
5. Start the bedtime and wake up times
Yes, it’s still summer and the days are longer, but don’t buy into the “It’s not fair – everyone else is still up. I can’t go to bed when it’s still light”. Kids have been pulling out that argument since the 1970s! Truth is, it takes at least a week to reset your kids’ sleep schedules. You need to start now if you have any prayer at all of dragging your teenaged son out of bed before noon. Plus, added bonus, the earlier the kids go to bed, the earlier the parents can go to bed!
6. Plan the first week of meals
Nothing drives me crazier than being asked “What’s for dinner”. Just one more thing to stress about, and it always ends with a delivery charge and extra packets of soy sauce. So why not plan all the meals for the first week right now? Buy all the groceries, pull out the recipes and post the menus on the refrigerator door. Try to include the kids in the planning and the cooking as well. They’re much more likely to eat what you serve if they’ve been part of the process. If everyone knows “what’s for dinner” (and breakfast and lunch), you can enjoy those few extra minutes of helping with homework before you have to shove them off to bed “while it’s still light out”.
Don’t worry. Yes, the new school year is just around the corner, but it’s not too late to get ready. With just a little extra prep and planning, your whole family can transition into the new school year with less stress and a greater sense of balance. And really, how many times can you eat shrimp fried rice?
What are some of your family’s First Day of School tips to ease in to the new school year? Let us know in the comments.