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It’s that time of year again—Back-to-school. A time many parents simultaneously anticipate and dread.
After a summer of fun, work, and play with your kids, it’s time to get back into a school routine. For many people, the start of the school year is stressful and challenging. But there are things you can do to make starting school easier.
When all of my children were still in school, I had someone leaving the house every 30 minutes from 6:30 to 8:30. For a time, I felt like I was living in a bus station with a revolving door. Systems and routines were a must for me.
Creating habits and establishing routines can go a long way toward relieving stress and helping everyone’s lives run more smoothly. Here are five things we do at our house that always make starting school easier.
Adjust Sleep Times
If you have typical kids, they have probably gotten into the summer habit of staying up later (hey, who wants to go to bed before the sun goes down?) and usually sleeping later in the morning. If they’re in the habit of snoozing until 8 or 9—or even later—a 7 a.m. or earlier start on the first day of school isn’t likely to be well-received. Start adjusting sleep and wake times a week or two before the first day of school. Gradually make bedtime earlier, by 15 minutes per night until you’ve gotten to school year bed time. Do the same thing with morning wake times. Wake up 15 minutes earlier each morning until everyone is getting up at the time that will give everyone enough time to get ready and get out the door without rushing.
As a bonus, start teaching your children to wake to their alarm clocks early on in their school careers. Helping them learn to get themselves up in the morning will teach them self-reliance and self-discipline and will make your job much easier.
Giving them their own fun alarm clock and helping them learn to use it, can help them feel like they are in charge of their own getting up. Helping your children learn to wake themselves up in the mornings might just be the single most important key to make starting school easier.
Get up 15 minutes earlier
Ok, I know you’re already groaning and, yes, I am a morning person. It started with getting up at 4:30 in the morning for an early morning religion class when I was in high school. But there are real benefits to waking up early. You can read about them here.
As a mom, I have found that just having a few minutes to myself before everyone is up and chaos erupts sets a more peaceful tone for my day and helps keep my stress level down. Not only that, but that extra 15 minutes means I can get everything done without having to rush.
Keep the Chaos Corralled
Is there anything that blows your day more quickly than running late and realizing halfway to school that you’ve forgotten someone’s lunch or backpack—or not being able to find that report that is absolutely due today and can’t be turned in late?
The best way to avoid the morning madness of searching for clothes or shoes or homework is to prepare the night before. Designate an “official” place for each child to keep their backpack so they can grab it and go in the mornings. Using a hall bench where everyone can learn to leave their things as they come home and picking them up again on the way out keeps everything contained and tidy. Before bedtime, have them put everything they need for the next day into their backpacks and put them in the go place.
Prep Lunches the Night Before
After the schoolwork is taken care of, turn your attention to lunches. Lunch packed at home is often cheaper and nearly always tastier than whatever they serve in your cafeteria. And making lunches the night before means you won’t have to think about it in the morning. Anything that gives me fewer morning chores improves my day and my mood.
When we had four children in four schools and two parents heading out every morning–all at different times, we created a lunch station to make evening prep easy. Sandwich fixings had their own bins in the refrigerator and pantry, as did fresh fruit and cut veggies, like baby carrots and celery. We used snack bins like these for snack bars, crackers, chips, and treats. Our children knew how much of each they could take each day. We found they complained less and came home with fewer leftovers when they got to choose their own lunches.
Give Your Kids a Part
Doing this all yourself does not make you a better mother. Enlist your kids in the process. Give them age-appropriate responsibilities so they can learn to take control of their own lives and ownership of their success. Starting as early as kindergarten, children can begin helping to make their own lunches. Whether it’s learning to spread jelly on bread, choosing the fruit or drink, or packing the lunchboxes, having your children help with their school preparations helps them learn to work as a family and to make decisions. As an added bonus, children are more likely to eat a lunch they’ve chosen themselves. By second or third grade, they should be able to handle pretty much the whole lunch-making process on their own—and you get more time for your needs.
Children can also learn to pack their own backpacks, and they can develop the habit of laying out their clothes the night before as well. Organizing tomorrow’s outfits the night before can go a long way toward eliminating last-minute hunts for missing shoes and jackets.
These five simple routines have made our 25 years of kids in school something to enjoy rather than dread. Try one or more and tell me how it’s working at your house.
And while you’re here, please share your best strategies to make starting school easier.
Happy School Year!