Is it just me or does school seem to start earlier and earlier every year?
While we don’t have any children starting school today, I well remember the good, the bad and the ugly of the beginning of the school year.
Of course young children are almost always excited for the new school year — their little faces light up when they meet their new teacher, see their new classroom and just anticipate all of that learning.
Middle and high school students tend to be a mixed bag. They are usually excited at first, but that excitement can quickly be replaced with negatives as they maneuver their way through adolescent and teenage years.
After getting four children through elementary, middle and high school, I have lots of tips for helping you get through the school year and having the most productive and least stressful experience.
Here we go!
• Do as much as possible the night before. Especially if you have little ones, this tip is critical. Pack backpacks, lay out clothes for the next day, get the coffee ready (instrumental for a successful morning), and even lay out your own outfit.
• Set the alarm. I remember reading about getting an alarm for even your kindergarten aged child and I thought that was crazy.
But, I did it when our oldest entered kindergarten, explaining to him that it was his responsibility to set his alarm and get himself up in the morning.
I didn’t have a whole lot of optimism, but was shocked when that cute little 5-year old came downstairs fully dressed on that first day of school.
I highly recommend you start this when your children are young. This cuts down on so much stress for parents having to repeatedly wake up their children.
• Get off to a good start with your child’s teacher.
Attend open house, offer to help out in the classroom, ask what you can do to help your child be successful.
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. Teachers have such an overwhelming job.
The more supportive parents are of them, the better they can do their job of teaching our children.
• Have a clear schedule for after school activities and homework. We used to find that after having a quick snack after school, getting homework done and out of the way was the best strategy.
Of course that changed a bit when our children got older and had activities or sports right after school, but the sooner they could knock out their homework, the better.
• Speaking of snacks, have healthy snacks at the ready.
Instead of having sugary cookies or chips, set out vegetables and ranch dressing or fresh fruit and yogurt. Instead of fruit juice, offer plain water or unsweetened iced tea.
• Plan your weekly menu.
Nothing leads to ordering pizza or going through the drive-thru faster than when you don’t have a solid dinner plan.
Spend a few minutes over the weekend to inventory what you have on hand, make a menu plan for the week, and then go ahead and make a grocery list.
If possible, do your shopping over the weekend so when Sunday night comes, you are all ready for the week ahead. Don’t forget to utilize your slow cooker. You might have to get up a few minutes earlier in the morning to get everything prepped and into the cooker, but you will be rewarded knowing most of dinner will be ready when you need it.
• Eat dinner together. I know it is not realistic to sit down at the dinner table every night, but do make an effort to eat together as much as you can. Dinner time is the perfect time to re-connect as a family and hear about everybody’s day.
• Keep your nighttime routine as routine as possible. Children are happiest when they have clear cut routines — homework, outside play, dinner, family time, a little television, baths/showers, reading, bedtime.
• Read to your young children. This is so important to do. With all of the screens in our lives these days, children truly need to be read to more than ever before. Even when you are so tired you don’t think you can keep your eyes open to read out loud, you won’t believe how important this is and what great memories you are creating for your children.
• Be careful not to overload your child’s schedule. Just like adults need downtime, so do children. Make sure your children have time to go outside and play — we all need to unplug regularly.
I hope all of your children and grandchildren have an awesome and successful school year! Make sure you check out my food column Friday for some tips and recipes for packing your child’s lunch.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.