Beat the back to school chaos for your family’s best year

Are you ready to start the new school year?

Whether you responded with a begrudging groan or a victorious “hurrah!”, the day is soon approaching when you must send those kiddos back to class and resume the school year routine. Use the last few weeks of summer to get organized and beat the back to school chaos using these three tactics to ensure you start the year off on the right foot.

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1) Get your head in the game

Get ahead of the chaos and into the right mindset with some early planning and conversations.  About a month prior to the first day, take stock of where you are in the pre-school process and plan accordingly.

Inventory your own obligations

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Before you even plan anything for the kids, sit down with your personal and work calendars to assess your capacity this year.  Ask your spouse, co-parent, or other caretakers to do the same.  

Take note of what you have scheduled already: a rough period at work coming up; a lot of planned travel; your co-parent will be unavailable for a portion of each week.  Keep these obligations and limitations in mind before planning out your children’s extracurricular activities and clubs to avoid over-committing your family.  

Plan for their passions

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Start talking with your children about their interests and how they want to spend their time outside of school hours this year.  Whether they come to you with a list of extracurricular activities a mile long or are resistant to take on additional things outside of school (I have one of each!), try to encourage each child to pick one or two activities they want to do this year.

Now sit down with their lists, compare them to your family’s overall schedule, and start piecing together a plan.

Set individual and family goals

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Take time during the summer wind down to get everyone excited about the upcoming school year and everything they plan to accomplish!

Ask your children about their goals for the year.  What do they want to learn at school or what skill do they want to master?  Are they striving to advance in a specific sport, learn a new musical instrument, or get a role in the school play?  Talk about what scares or excites them for the year so that you can support them by being their biggest cheerleader.

Create goals as a family in addition to individual goals.  Set expectations for family dinner participation, weekly family nights, or attending Sunday morning church services together.  Establishing and committing to a weekly routine as a family ensures you have plenty of opportunities to make memories and grow with your children this year.

Create a reasonable schedule

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Now comes the delicate art of scheduling for efficiency while keeping everyone (including the parents!) happy.

If you have more than one child, try to find opportunities to double up on activities at one time to make coordination much more efficient.  For example, when my girls both did gymnastics I intentionally scheduled their classes at the same time or back to back to avoid multiple trips.  Perhaps your daughter’s soccer league meets at the fields next to the karate studio where your son wants to attend; try to have them attend on the same evening.

Enlist the help of your co-parent, family, and friends to share the responsibility of the extracurricular Uber driver.  See if any of your children’s friends want to attend the same class or join the same team so you can alternate drop-offs and pick-ups with another family.  Take turns shuttling kids with your partner or co-parent.

While we all want to encourage our children’s interests and allow them opportunities to try new things, the modern parenting trend is to overbook our children at the expense of everyone’s well-being.  Keep your family and individual goals front and center as you plan out your year.  You only have so much time each week, so keep expectations for both you and your kids realistic to prevent burnout and ensure success for all family members.

2) Prep the stuff

Along with all those new classes and assignments comes, well, a lot of stuff.  Use the time before school starts to shop for whatever you need and combat the messes by organizing in advance.  

Get organized and declutter

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What better time to tackle home organization than at the start of a new (school) year?  Not only can you make more room for all the new books, pencils, notebooks, and papers you’re about to encounter, but organizing and clearing out clutter has been shown to reduce stress as well!

Create boxes to collect items for donation or the trash, then go room by room to weed out things you no longer need.  Starting, of course, with the children’s areas.

Sort through unused toys, school supplies, and old sporting equipment.  Anything broken goes in the trash, anything they’ve outgrown or no longer use can go to the donation box.

Take an inventory of your children’s clothing and shoes, noting which specifics you will need to replace in their wardrobe.  Get rid of worn-out and stained items that can’t be salvaged.  Give too-small pieces a new life by donating them or selling them to a local or online resale shop (such as ThredUp).

No matter how much stuff you are able to clear out, having this opportunity before the chaos of fall to organize everything will help get you in that “fresh start” mindset.  

New clothes and shoes

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If your children are anything like mine, you are purchasing new tennis shoes and clothing basics at least twice a year.  Somehow those tennies get trashed or outgrown within just a few months and we find ourselves back in the kids’ department, yet again.  

Make sure everyone goes back to school in style by replenishing your kids’ closet essentials.  Take advantage of the back to school sales (and tax-free weekend, if your state offers one) to ensure your children will be well-dressed without breaking the bank.  You can use all that newfound space at home to store your new gear in an organized fashion.

Backpacks/school supplies

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Give your children’s backpacks a quality inspection.  If last year’s knapsack is ripped, soiled, or destroyed beyond all repair, it’s definitely time to invest in a new one.  Help your kid pick out a new, sturdy backpack in a color or design they are excited to sport into class.

Compile any unused or extra supplies from previous years before going on a shopping spree.  Depending on how and when you receive the required supply lists from your child’s teachers, you may not be able to purchase everything until the first week of school.  Stock up on at least the school supply necessities (notebooks, pens, pencils, paper) to get ahead of the shopping hustle before school begins.  

3) Transition gradually into the school routine

As much as everyone loves sleeping in and the schedule-free days of summer, at some point you have to get back into your school year routine.  Instead of painfully ripping that bandaid off all at once on the first day, try to transition gradually into a more structured routine over time.

Get plenty of sleep 

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Getting back into a “normal” sleep schedule is the worst, right?

Make sure your kids get adequate sleep for their growing bodies by slowly transitioning them to the schooltime routine.  Try making small adjustments to bedtime (and wakeup time if your child loves to sleep in, like my tween) so you can be back on schedule by the first day.

The best morning routine is the easy morning routine

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Start incorporating small aspects of school morning prep into your summer routine to get the kids in the swing of things.  

Have them pick out and lay out their clothes each night for the next morning.  Coordinate what they will have for breakfast so there is no mystery (or hangry children) in the a.m.  Assign morning chores in advance so everyone knows what they’re supposed to do.  

It may feel like a hassle when you’re exhausted at the end of another long, hot summer day; but I promise you, having these routines established will make the morning school rush so much easier!

What do you need to prepare for this year?

Ask yourself honestly what your schooltime struggles will be this year.  Making it on time for afternoon pickup; getting a healthy dinner ready each night; staying on top of the never-ending piles of laundry each week?  

Now, look around at your network and resources to see if you can find a solution.

Ask your neighbor to pick up the kids each afternoon and you can drop off her kids each morning.  Use one day each week to prep a few freezer meals for the slow cooker for those nights you know you won’t have time.  Ask your boss if you can work from home every Friday to tackle all your laundry, then have a Friday night folding party with your kids while you watch a movie.  

Yes, there will be too much to do and too little time — welcome to Adulting and Parenting!  But by working smarter, not just harder, there are always opportunities to do things more efficiently.

Enjoy your last days of summer

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As the countdown to school begins, make sure that your child’s first day goes down without a hitch with some mindful planning and preparation.  By incorporating these tips a little bit at a time, you’ll help everyone shift back into school mode much easier while still being able to savor the last days of summer break.  

Wishing you and your family a smooth start to the school year and a fun-filled end to your summer!

Does the back to school rush stress you out?  What tips and tricks have you found to prepare your family each year?  Tell us all about it in the comments!

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