Conquer the Stress of Back to School

September for most of us is a reminder: back to school!  With that brings a lot of stress for parents. All the extra expenses of school supplies, new clothes and backpacks, getting the kids up early and out the door while still getting to work on time. Add into that the daily fights for homework, showers and bedtimes… Here are some tips for conquering the “Back to School Stress” from a mom who has survived it, 20 years in a row.

The one part of back to school that I enjoyed was the organizing. I am a nut for organizing, and although my kids were not all as enthusiastic about it, I know it made their lives a little easier.  

  • Calendar – One trick I learned was hanging a dry erase calendar in the kitchen. Each family member had a different color marker so we could track activities and appointments, then later as they grew: all the work schedules. There are apps that also will do this and share electronically to all members if that works better for you, but having everyone on board to see what is going on is great.  Often with after school activities, one parent is running around with the kids, so it’s good to be able to look to see where others may be at and when you will get home.  You can also plan in advance when you know days are going to be crazy, so plan an easy dinner or set up a carpool schedule to help.
  • School supplies – The schools have at least gotten better about giving you the list before school begins so you can bargain shop before everything is out of stock. Nothing was worse than the night after the first day of school, everyone is in the store fighting for the last 5-subject notebook.  I know when I would see deals on 1 cent notebooks or dollar store composition books I would buy them to keep for the next year. After school starts if you see the sales, pick up some extra supplies and keep a box in a closet. You will always need extra. 
  • Color coordinate – I would try to color coordinate notebooks & folders for the same subjects for each kid…green would be science, math would be blue, etc. It made it easier for them to grab in their lockers. 
  • Inbox – Have one spot in your home for all papers that you need to see and complete. If you have more than one child, perhaps a wall box with folders for each kid that they can put papers for you to sign and you can put back for them to put back into their bags.
  • Routine – Setting a routine is key to sanity. Setting the expectation with kids is also important. Each kid was different when it came to needs. Some needed more hand holding and some were very independent. So not all routines and expectations are the same. Have a time that homework needs to be done by. My oldest liked to get it done and not think about it about it but my youngest needed down time after school and was better if she did her homework later. A slower schedule, especially if you have more children, will help keep the peace. My youngest, since she was slower in getting ready in the mornings and prefered to sleep as late as possible, would be on a night shower schedule. Right after dinner she needed to get in and get it done, as she also did not like going to bed early so she would drag it out.   Finding what each child needs and how to build a structure for it will make everyone’s lives a little easier.
  • Lunches – One of my least favorite things was the lunches, so everyone knew I would make their lunch with resentment. And it showed.  Since I did not like to prepare lunches, my husband would take that role over for me. He enjoyed making their lunches special by cutting their sandwiches funny or leaving notes for them with a joke or an “I love you”.  This task did not bother him so it worked out better that he would handle that. The key here is to prep the night before instead of waiting for the morning, or delegate.
  • Communication is key – Talk about what is overwhelming you and find a solution. You don’t have to just keep feeling that way. It’s good to talk with the kids on what they can do to help you. It’s also good to talk to them to see if they are feeling overwhelmed and if there are things you can do to help them out too.  Some routines just need adjusting until everyone is in a good place. When something isn’t working, change it up.  Work as a team. There were days when I did not have the patience for the homework sit-down and my husband would take over.  Some tasks were more stressful for me than him so we would work that out.
  • Life/work balance – Set aside some time for yourself, walking with a girlfriend or going out for coffee to just have some “me” time is crucial to the life/work balance. Because let’s face it, being a mom is a full time job so you have to make sure you give yourself time to yourself.

I don’t miss the days of the busy school mornings, shooting like a drill sergeant every morning, get up, get dress, get your shoes on, get your lunch, grab your backpack…lets go out the door. 

September, as I see it, is a time to get back to a schedule. Even though my kids are all adults, I still look forward to getting organized and back on a routine again. We are more than half way through the year, we just made it through the summer. Time to regroup and focus.