If there’s ever a stressful time of year for moms of school-age children, it’s back to school. Growing up, I remember the “getting ready” phase would start long before summer was over and bring with it that feeling of dread. Not that I hated school at all. It was just that after a long summer of being free from sitting still, homework, bedtimes and schedules, I just simply wasn’t ready to go back.
I found out that as a parent, that hasn’t changed. Every year, it’s the same time, and I am still never ready. Having been there a few years with still many more to go, I have learned that a little preparation can go a long way in making the transition smoother. It’s never going to be smooth, but there are ways to minimize the chaos.
Start to set routines in advance: Try to get your kids to bed a few minutes earlier a week in advance and start waking them up in the morning so there’s not a complete shock on the first day. Get them in the habit of brushing their teeth in the morning before coming downstairs and try to start your school mealtime schedule as well. If your kids are used to eating breakfast at 10 a.m. and suddenly they have to make it from 7 a.m. until noon, it might be difficult for them.
Make responsibilities known up front: Whatever rules, requirements and responsibilities you’re going to establish related to school, communicate them before school starts. Whether it’s getting clothes and backpacks ready at night, homework times or limits on electronics, your kids will be more likely to abide if they know what to expect. It’s easy to let things slide during the first week of school, but that may lead to bad habits later on.
Involve your kids in the preparation: Picking lunchboxes, notebooks and clothes gets them into the mood and mentally ready for the transition. If they’re old enough to do homework without total supervision, let them decide where and when and make them create a routine and stick to it.
Eliminate the “first day” pressure: Don’t stress about it and your kids won’t. If your child doesn’t have a brand new lunchbox or exactly 10 sharpened pencils, it’s not a big deal. However, it will help to plan a little more for the first day to avoid missing socks or other unexpected surprises that create a last minute panic. I am not a great planner but have to be at this time of the year for the sake of my kids. I have learned the hard way and hopefully my kids are not still holding it against me. So, if you’re out of bread for sandwiches or can’t find two ponytails that match, that will most likely blow over, too.
Remind them about the fun: There’s not a child I have ever met who would choose to go back to school on their own. But, they will dread it less if you remind them about all the fun things associated with going back to school such as intramural sports, seeing old friends and making new ones, getting new things, earning more responsibility, and learning. Then they will think less about homework, tests, and getting up every day if there’s enjoyment to focus on. Allow for playtime after school and make an extra effort to plan fun things on the weekends and evenings the first few weeks to make the transition easier.
As parents, we could learn a bit from our kids’ back to school routines. Maybe we should use this time to get into a regular schedule, sleep and eat right for maximum energy, get organized, make some new friends and challenge ourselves to study an unfamiliar subject. If kids can do it, so can moms.