Back to school time is an extremely stressful time of year. Whether you have 5 kids or one kid, it's a hectic time of shopping, planning, and coordinating schedules. No matter how many times you've done this before it never gets any easier.
Here are some tips and tricks we've put together to help combat that school year stress!
1. Use Positive Phrasing When Talking About School
When kids hear adults talking about school like it's the worst thing to happen since that meteor took out the dinosaurs, they'll start to think there's something to hate about it. Use positive phrasing like "You get to go back to school soon, isn't that great?" Carry this on throughout the school year too. Instead of saying "You can't go anywhere until you do this schoolwork," why not try "You can go outside after you've completed your work." It's a subtle change, but it puts more emphasis on the excitement of going outside as opposed to the negativity of being held back by the work.
2. Get the Kids Involved in Back to School Shopping
Kids tend to respond better when they are given more responsibility and choice. I mean, don't send them to Target with your credit card and hope for the best. But why not bring them along? Set out guidelines and make it a game. "Can you find a set of pencils that is less than $4?" "First person to pick out their lunchbox wins!" Include the kids and make it fun. You could even have them write a list of what they think they need. The stores will be packed and it will be easy to get overwhelmed, so having a list to go off will take a bit of that stress away. Having the kids included in the process will also make them want to take care of their supplies, too. Who would want to lose the challenging-winning pencil sharpener?
3. Have an "Emergency Supplies Kit" for Kids to Keep Handy
The school yard is full of surprises. It's important to always be ready. Emergency Supplies Kits are a great way to make kids feel more comfortable at school knowing they have things to help them if need be. Some examples of supplies for middle school or high school kids could be band-aids, a toothbrush, feminine hygiene products (especially in high school), emergency cash, a list of phone numbers, small snacks, deodorant, etc. Pack it full of things that could be small but important. You can get the kids involved with this too, choosing some items they'd like to have on hand, as well as decorating the kit itself.
4.Have the Kids Help With Lunches
Lunches are tricky, because you want to send your kids with healthy food, but you also know they won't always eat what you give them. Having your kids help pack their lunches not only gives them a sense of responsibility but also lets you know they have food that will be eaten. If you're worried your kids will just back 3 rows of Oreos and a handful of crackers, you have options. You can create a "lunch system", where you outline guidelines for what they're allowed to pack. Have specific containers for certain types of snacks (round ones for crackers, square ones for fruit, etc) and limit them to a certain number of each. If your kids are younger, you can also pre-package food options at the beginning of the week and then let your kids pick which ones they want. This still gives them the hands on approach and makes them feel involved.
5. Designate a Specific Area for Homework
Having clear set boundaries between work and play is important. Set-up a "Homework Station" for your kids where they can get all their work done. Letting kids do their work around the house (IE in front of the TV) can limit their productivity and lessen their chance at retaining what they're learning about. Give them a desk (or a section of a table) that is their spot to put all their schoolwork, backpacks, anything school related. Make the spot somewhere that isn't too closed off, we don't want the kids feeling banished to the basement while doing work. This is also handy so you can keep an eye on how often they're at their work station. If the cobwebs start growing, you can probably assume they haven't done their work in a while.
6. Start the Sleep Schedule Early
Summer sleep patterns can get a little out of hand. Which is fine since there's really not anything hugely important going on. But once school hits, it can be a real struggle to get the kids to bed early enough that they'll be rested, but not so early they feel prison inmates. A great way to ease them in to the school routine is by starting it a couple weeks in advance. Move bedtime every day to 15 minutes earlier than it was the night before. By the time school hits they'll be used to the earlier bed time and they'll actually be able to fall asleep. If you change their sleep schedule the night before school begins, you run the risk of them just laying in bed for 2 hours until their "usual" sleep time rolls around. Hopefully with earlier sleep schedules it will make mornings a little easier as well. No promises, though.
7. Create a Playlist With Just the Right Amount of Time for the Morning Schedule
Looking at the clock all morning can be a chore in itself. A fun way to keep track of time is to create a playlist using the exact amount of time you have in the morning. Pick songs that pump you up or make you dance so you'll get a little extra motivation. Instead of having to watch the clock for 30 minutes, you can rock out. Once the playlist is done, you know it's time to get going. Just...make sure you don't have it on repeat. Change up the playlist every week so that the songs don't get old. Have your kids pick their favorites and watch them wake up with some fun!
8. Teach Your Kids to Prioritize
One of my biggest struggles hitting university was not being able to organize my workload. Teach your kids how to look at deadlines and organize their work accordingly. It may sound excessive, but if kids are aware of their due dates and other activities it will make it easier for them to complete their work effectively. Make a big calendar for each month where they can write out deadlines for assignments and projects. You can also include the days they're going to work on each project so there's no last minute scrambling. Using this method teaches kids how to stay organized even when things get busy, and will help build time management skills. It's also a great way for you to keep track of their assignments as well. Make it fun and interactive. Include stickers for finished assignments and small rewards if all weekly goals are met.
9. Ask Open-Ended Questions About the School Day
Is there anything more frustrating than asking your kid, "How was your day?" and them responding, "fine"? I doubt it. Kids do a lot at school, so asking them a blanket question like "how was it?" is vague and overwhelming. Here's a few questions you can ask instead to try and open the gates of communication:
- Tell me something that made you laugh today!
- What was your favorite thing you learned today?
- When were you bored today?
- If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
- If an alien came and beamed someone up from your class today, who would you want it to be?
- What's one thing you could do tomorrow to be nicer to someone in your class?
Getting everything ready for back-to-school time is a big task. But hopefully these tips help ease some of the pressure. What are your back-to-school tips and tricks? Let us know!