We are two weeks into August, and students across the country are heading back to school. In the lazy days of summer, it is easy to forget the rush and added stress that this transitional time of year can bring. Here are some easy ways to reduce the stress and rush of back to school time.
Start preparing early
Many students are already in school by mid-August, so this may be advice to consider for next year. Start preparing for back to school time at least a month early.
School supplies: You can shop early for these and avoid the rush by seeing if your child’s school has posted a list of needed supplies on their website. If not, purchase the things you know you’ll need as you see them go on sale over the summer. A new lunchbox and backpack are probably necessities, as are pencils, pens, and loose leaf paper. Classrooms always need tissues and hand sanitizer, so look forward to helping the teachers out, too.
Clothing: As the kids continue to grow and sprout throughout the summer, think ahead to school clothes as you replenish their supply. Many dress codes specify knee-length shorts or skirts, so as your kids outgrow their summer clothes, replace them with dress code-ready substitutes. Summer clothes go on sale mid-July, and back to school time clothes generally feature sweaters and jeans. Although these may be okay for classrooms that are air conditioned to Arctic temperatures, using on-sale summer clothes to layer with a light sweater may be the best idea until chillier weather comes around. For areas that are warm year-round (like Nevada!), a summer tank top and light sweater or polo shirt will always be appropriate school gear.
Sleeping: Nothing is harder than trying to get kids to go to sleep at a proper bedtime when the sun is still blazing away outside their window. Start your kids with an increasingly early bedtime as summer comes to an end, and wake them up at school time daily (this will help with the early bedtime). You can also try dark curtains or eye shades for those children who need to sleep in total darkness.
Immunizations: August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and all states require some form of immunizations for students to enter in the fall. Check with your school system early to see what is required, then make an appointment if your child needs vaccinations. Doctors’ offices get slammed with last-minute requests every year. If you can, schedule your appointments early in the summer to avoid the rush.
Develop (and stick to!) a routine
Part of the stress of back to school time is the fact that the household routine is completely disrupted by early bedtimes, early rising, lunches to be packed, homework to be done, and dinner to put on the table. The first few days of school can be hectic. It is likely that your child(ren) will be exhausted, excited, and possibly cranky at the end of their day until they get into the swing of things.
Make after school time as stress-free as possible by developing a routine that works for you. This can include things like:
- Snack time and some time outside (or free time inside, but avoid screens)
- Homework time (or reading) while dinner is being made
- After-dinner baths and family time
- Nighttime rituals that work for your kids (e.g., reading, talking, winding down)
If your kids are a little older, help them develop a good routine that incorporates talking about their day, homework, and free time. Limit screens during this transition, at least during the week. Part of this routine can be family movie and pizza night on Fridays, signaling the end of the week. Routines can go a long way to help kids (and parents!) ease into back to school time.
Develop your own routine
Parents experience stress just as much as kids do during this time, much of it centered around meal times in the morning and the evening. In the evening when everyone comes home tired, cranky, and possibly starving, help yourself out by using your crockpot or cooking once to eat all week.
Start the morning out right by preparing for it right after dinner. As you clean up dinner, pack lunches for the next day and get breakfast fixings ready. This is a good time to start some overnight oatmeal or defrost healthy muffins or mini-quiches to pop in the microwave for a quick hot breakfast. Instead of rushing around to get lunches ready and breakfast cooked in the morning, you can sit down with your kids as they start their day.
After school snacks can also be prepared in advance. Have your kids help to make it a family affair!
Even with advance planning and preparation, back to school time can be very stressful for some kids. With extreme testing requirements and increasing homework loads even for the very youngest children, kids are experiencing stress and its side effects now more than ever. Without an outlet, chronic stress can be damaging to both mental and physical health.
If you notice that your child is having trouble sleeping (or is extremely fatigued), is more emotional than usual, seems irritable, or is lashing out, they may be experiencing stress. Helping kids manage stress is one of the most valuable tools you can offer them as a parent. Simple things like allowing them free time to play, encouraging them to go outside, and limiting screen time can go a long way to alleviate stress during back to school time.
Are your kids back in school or headed back soon? How do you manage this back to school time transition?
Image by US Department of Education via Flickr