Despite all the hype, back to school time is NOT about the kids. What no one tells you is that this time of year, for parents, is going to be a true test of sanity. The only job the kids have is to show up. They show up to shop for clothes, they show up to meet their teacher, they show up for the first day of school, and they show up at home for dinner. The real heroes of back to school are the adults who are behind the scenes directing and orchestrating all of the shopping, meet the teacher events, setting up classrooms, preparing curriculums, packing lunches, filling out the paperwork, budgeting for school supplies, and making sure the kids have enough sleep.
Thankfully my kids are already back in school. I probably could have handled the transition with a little more class but I feel like I am getting better at this back to school thing. I have compiled a list of tips that I am hoping will help other parents keep a little more sanity through the craziness.
Stock up on coffee
The first few weeks are going to be rough. Getting up early is not an issue for me. Okay, I am lying. I hate getting up early. The worst part for me is having to function within the first two hours after waking up. Back to school means early mornings and the struggles of the day will start before the sun wakes up. Have your coffee, or whatever gets you going, ready to go. We use the auto brew setting on our coffee pot which helps tremendously. Just the smell of coffee can bribe me out of bed. Although, I cannot be expected to solve any of life’s problems before drinking my first cup.
Pick a bedtime and STICK TO IT
Yes, having a bedtime for the kids is a no-brainer. What I mean when I say to pick a bedtime I am talking about for you parents, too! I set mine for 10 pm. Setting a bedtime for myself helps keep me on track with the kids. I put my kids in bed at 8 pm–the later I put them to bed the less “me time” I get at night. Try to stick to it as much as possible. I love spending time with my kids and I love staying up at night to watch movies but I even try to stick to this schedule on the weekends. I make staying up at night a treat and a summer tradition.
Do not get up earlier than necessary
We all go into back to school time with ambitions. I always make a goal to be up before my kids. I envy the parents who can rise at 4 in the morning with smiles on their faces and are completely ready to face the day before their kids get up. I can’t do it. I am one of those parents who, by the end of the school year, will be dropping their kids off in her pajamas with leftover make-up from the day before. This year, I am changing things. I am not making any goals to be up before all the kids. Making this goal is only setting me up for failure before the school year even begins.
I have a 6th grader and she has an alarm. She showed me, last year, that she is capable of getting up in the morning without my help. I use this to my advantage. I set my first alarm for the same time as her and leave myself some time to hit the snooze button. Without the added pressure, I am able to get out of bed earlier. My younger kids don’t even get up until 6:45 so it gives me some time before the chaos hits. My point is this–prepare as much as possible ahead of time. Just be realistic and plan the start of your day according to your abilities. If you put too much pressure, or set your expectations too high, you will be overwhelmed from the moment your alarm goes off. Eliminating these expectations allows you to get up and start your morning off the way you need to and will result in a better day all around.
Rethink chores/responsibility charts
During the school year schedules change in the most dramatic way. Chores have to be reevaluated. When summer starts, I adjust the chore lists and set time limits. I am not picky about when they wake up but I don’t want them to be left to do whatever they want. If I allowed it, my 11 year-old would lay in her bed all day, in her pajamas, all while playing games on her phone. She might come out for food. For her health, and my sanity, I require that all chores are done before noon. During school this expectation is not realistic. I do not make my kids do chores before school. What I do is cut their chores down and I choose chores for all three kids that can wait for them to get home. I also choose chores that can be done easily and quickly. My 11 year-old has a lot of “after dinner” chores because this allows her to knock out her homework early.
If I can offer some advice on this topic–make sure that chores do not cause you more stress. I have learned that assigning too many chores during the school week can cause conflict and stress for my kids. This, in turn, causes me stress because I have to fight with tired kids who just want to play with friends and have some “rest.” With that being said, make sure that they are being helpful. The point is for them to be of help around the house while learning responsibility. You know your own kid’s abilities and limitations–use that as a guide when making the chore list.
Another plus to assigning chores during the school week is that it can be used as a tool to encourage good behavior in school and at home. If my kids have a week or two of good marks at school and show that they are capable of doing their chores without being told–I will surprise them with a “no chore day.” I don’t tell them it is coming I just do their chores for them and when they arrive home from school they discover that they have nothing left to do.
Knock out school supplies early
This year, I decided to do the bulk of my school supply shopping early. This proved to be a great decision! I didn’t have to fight the infamous crowds that seem to flock to the stores a week before school. This also allowed me to budget a little bit at a time which gave my August budget a break. School shopping is the equivalent of Christmas in my house. My kids go crazy over new backpacks and school clothes. I put a limit on the number of outfits and shoes each kid starts school with.
Next year I am going to try to use gift cards. I plan to buy a gift card that I can add money to each month. By the time June and July hits each kid will have their own gift card to spend on school clothes and supplies. I will let you all know how this works.
Be prepared for grumpy kids
Any veteran parent knows that the first few weeks of school means grumpy kids. They don’t want to get up early and they are worn out by the time they get home. I cannot imagine being a teacher during the first few weeks of school. The positive side to this is that bedtime is usually no problem. My kids are usually begging for bedtime during the first week of school. My advice on this matter–don’t anger the beast. No matter how sweet your kid is, lack of sleep will stir that beast inside of them. Pick your battles the first few weeks. The most important thing my kids can hear from me is “I understand you are tired. Maybe a small rest will help before doing your homework/chores.” A 10 minute rest right after school can go a long way. Being sympathetic to their feelings can also go a long way. I know my immediate reaction to their grumpiness is to let them know how tired I am too. This only causes them to think you don’t care which, in turn, can cause the beast to come out.
Talk to your kids
Before school starts, I try to be as detailed about the new schedule as possible. Tell them what the expectation will be. This alleviates any surprises once school starts. Don’t expect them to be okay with surprise changes. If you just throw them into a new schedule you are only asking for grumpy kids (see above paragraph). I also talk to them about the fact that their free time is going to be cut down during the school week due to homework, chores, and dinner. I communicate as much as possible. They may roll their eyes and say that they already know but, when it comes down to it, they are going to have a problem with some part of this new school year. Just talk to them about everything and keep the lines of communication open.
My oldest started Middle School this year. When we were driving home from picking up her schedule she cried. She had anticipated this moment all summer. She was excited to see what classes she would have. I told her all summer not to get her hopes up. I told her to stop planning for things she didn’t even know would even happen. Sure enough she had Spanish class instead of choir like she thought she would have. This was devastating to her. We talked about it and talked about how this experience was going to be good for her and that she will have the opportunity to take choir later on. Here we are half-way through the second week of school and she LOVES Spanish class. She was given the opportunity to drop her Spanish class and pick up choir and passed. She said “mom, I want to take choir but I really like Spanish. I will take choir another time.” These are the moments that prove that I do have it in me to be a good parent 🙂
Give yourself time
Being up at 5:30 in the morning and rushing around from the minute your feet hit the floor gives every parent the right to set some time out for themselves. Pick something you enjoy doing and take 15 minutes (or more) every night after the kids go to bed. Have a cup of tea, drink a glass of wine, take a bath, do some reading–do whatever it is that calms you. Everyone has a reset button and taking a little time to yourself after the baths have been given, after the lunches are packed, after dinner has been served, after the dishes are done, and the goodnight kisses have been given is the best thing anyone can do. Keep the sanity because there will be days when every parent feels like they have lost their sanity.
Expect long waits
Long waits in the check out line, long waits in the school orientation lines, long waits in the drop off line, long waits at practice–be prepared! This is the time when everyone is adjusting. Every kid and every parent is adjusting to a new year. Just go into everything with an open mind. It is normal for there to be some chaos. If you can come to terms with this before leaving the house you will save yourself some anxiety.
I don’t think I need to really tell you how this tip can be beneficial for EVERYONE. Just breathe. At the end of all the long waits, the readjusted schedules, the spending money, and the grumpy kids the first day of school is going to turn into the last day of school. There is only 24 hours in a day and you WILL get to start a new day tomorrow. Don’t stress about back to school–enjoy it. You only get to do this a handful of times before you send those babies out into the world. The more stress you put yourself under–the more stress your kids will be under. You set the example for your kids. If you stress they will worry. This should be a positive time for your kids.
Do you have any advice to offer parents about back to school? I would love to hear it!! Leave me a comment below.