Back to school blues got you down? No worries, these three tricks will help!
Slowly but surely, summer is winding down and preparations for the school year are ramping up. Like most parents, I’m busy fielding emails about supply lists, meet-the-teacher dates, and reminders to get those physicals I told myself I’d schedule back in May. I’m looking forward to school starting because I long for the structure, routine, and reprieve from endless sibling bickering, but many of my fellow mamas do not share my enthusiasm. Some of them aren’t ready for the long, lazy mornings and relaxed evenings to end. Some are dreading the homework and lunch-making. And some of them cringe at the thought of braving the Target school-supply section.
If you’re also dreading the start of the school year, you’re in good company. But there are some things you can do to make the transition back to school smoother and less stressful — for both you and your kids.
1Start adjusting bedtimes now
For a solid month after school ended, I stuck to our normal school-year bedtime. I swore up and down that I was not going to let bedtime slide later and later, because deviating from our normal bedtime always makes the first few weeks of school that much harder. But of course, I did. Because summer, s’mores, and swimming.
However, I didn’t let it slide egregiously. The kids have been going to bed about an hour later than usual, which isn’t too bad but will definitely still result in rough mornings unless I get ahead of the game. So for the next two weeks, I’m going to roll their bedtime back by 10 minutes every other night. That’s a small enough change that they’ll barely notice, and giving them 2 nights of the earlier bedtime will let their circadian rhythms settle into it before adjusting again. If you start early and are diligent about following through, you can slowly adjust your children’s bedtimes back to normal before they even notice — and you’ll totally avoid those first few weeks of frantic, bleary-eyed, hectic mornings.
2Practice now, perfect later
If it’s the lunch-making and homework-checking that’s got you hiding in a corner, clinging desperately to your swimsuit and sunglasses, don’t despair. Your kids are a year older now, so it’s time to get them involved. Have a family meeting and lay out basic nutritional guidelines for lunches, then tell your kids they get to spend the next two weeks practicing making their own lunches so that when school starts, they’re ready to roll. Have them make their lunches the night before, just like they will when school starts, and then fine-tune the process and lunch selection while you eat. Figure out what they like the best, what they can make the most easily, and what your go-tos will be on those days when things are crazy and you just have to get out the door.
Same thing with homework. Talk about the expectations for the upcoming year — will your new 5th grader have a locker for the first time? Will your 9th grader need different binder to keep track of the increasing homework load of high school? Troubleshoot ahead of time, then make sure you have an organizational system in place that will keep your kids on track (and keep you sane).
3Make school shopping social
Y’all, school supply shopping is a beating, there’s no getting around it. But that beating is made twice as bad when you take all your kids, because it inevitably devolves into a battle over the last remaining Pokémon folder or the only magnetic locker disco ball. Aside from leaving the kids at home, there’s one fool-proof way to make school shopping more pleasant — bring friends.
Let your kids invite one friend each to go school shopping with them, and you reach out and invite that friend’s mom. Not only will the friend provide a welcome distraction for your child and get them excited about socially reconnecting once school starts, but having another mom along will also give you built-in backup when you can’t remember exactly what size binder they need for math, or when you have to say no to the rolling backpack for the 57th time.
Above all, remind your kids (and yourself) that there’s a season for everything. It is sad to close the door on another summer of fun times and family bonding, but there are so many things to look forward to during the school year as well. And before you know it, it’ll be May again and you’ll have the whole summer in front of you.