As a mom, you either love or hate the first day of school. Some moms can’t wait for the big yellow school bus to whisk their adorable children out of the house and back to the structure of the classroom. Others wail and gnash their teeth at the thought of strict schedules and the screech of the alarm. Whichever type of mom you are, that first day can come as a bit of a shock to the system. There’s no need to pile on the stress. With just a few tips, your kids will strap on the backpack and have their sack lunch in hand, with you saying that it was as easy as 1-2-3.
Summer, with its relaxed days and long hours of sunshine, is perfect for staying up late and rolling out of bed even later. If you keep that routine up until the day before school, that first week is going to be unpleasant to say the least. Sarah Growney, mom of 2 and owner of the Thistle gift store in Cody, says, “Start weaning your kids off of those fun late nights a good couple of weeks before school.” It only makes sense to ease your children into falling asleep a little earlier each night and getting up a bit earlier each day. Nobody does well with changing their sleep patterns overnight —not you and certainly not your kids.
Before school begins, plan for several weeks of easy breakfasts. Make a list so you have something to refer to on those days when you wake up with a so-called zombie brain. This is a great time to finally use that Pinterest board of fabulous recipes. Make and freeze breakfast muffins, waffles and mini-quiches. Enlist the help of older children in picking out recipes and doing the cooking. They’ll look forward to eating their special breakfasts, which just might make school mornings a bit more cheery.
Amber Simon-Power, mom of 4 and self-employed business consultant says she gets her older sons involved with choosing recipes and then creating their own morning masterpieces. It’s a great way to spend some quality time with your kids in the kitchen. There’s a bonus here, besides a less stressful morning. It gives you a chance to talk to your children about those back to school jitters as well.
A successful transition flows smoothly from having an established routine. The Growney family posts the kids’ morning routine in several can’t miss places – the top of the stairs, in their bathrooms, and on the front door. It’s a simple but effective routine – eat breakfast, brush your teeth, get dressed, clean your room, pack your bag, play. Not at all difficult and even young children can do it. The faster you get done, the more play time you have. That’s a good carrot of motivation and it keeps parents from constantly nagging.
Amassing all the school supplies and clothes can be a time and budget drain. Aimee Lin Carlson, mom of 5 and owner of Clear Path Life Coaching in Billings, suggests starting that process on the last day of the previous year. Empty the backpacks right away. Make a note of which backpacks should be replaced. Put all the school supplies that can be reused in a box for next fall. If you make a list of what needs to be replaced you can shop for those supplies as time and money allow. Most supplies can be reused next year, except for crayons. For me, there was nothing as wonderful as getting a brand new box of crayons every fall. Use the old broken ones for crafts.
About school supplies Aimee says, “After going through this now with five children over the years, I know that not every item on the list needs to be brand new, nor does it need to be delivered the very first day of school.” That’s great advice. It gives you some time to finish procuring everything on those incredibly long lists so helpfully provided by your child’s teacher.
“Don’t worry about new school clothes right away either,” says Aimee. Our weather is warm enough for shorts and sandals generally through September. You might think about a big shopping trip after the excitement of the new school year wears off after that first month. How many of us purchase wonderful new clothing for our kids, only to have them grow out of it before the weather gets cold enough for them to wear it? What a genius suggestion.
Most schools now have picnics or parties right before classes begin. This is a great transition tool, and especially helpful for kids who might have some anxiety about getting back to class. They can meet their teacher, find their desk, figure out where to hang their coats and backpacks and see how many friends they’ll be sharing the room with. Amber Simon-Power says her kids really need this event to smooth their re-entry. For first timers, it eases the fear of the unknown. For returnees, it gives them a “been there, done that” feeling of success. For parents, it’s a chance to form carpools, to assess who might be a good support person during the year and a time to make that all important first day coffee date.
One last piece of advice comes from Aimee Lin Carlson. She says to politely refuse any new commitments the first 30 days of the school year. That buffer month gives you time to create your routine without a lot of other distractions. Join the PTA in October. Start piano lessons in November. Utilize September to be together as a family and enjoy the beautiful weather before winter sets in. I wish I had thought of this when my children were in school.
A smooth transition from the downtime of summer to the double time of school can be yours with a little preparation. I love this thought from Aimee, “Summer can actually last longer, if we are willing to blend our seasons a bit and look ahead/plan ahead.” Here’s to more summer and making this your best school year yet!