Ah, back to school. The time of year we all dread and relish at the same time. We’ve had about ten weeks of summer break and while it always seems like a great idea at the beginning, by the time week six or seven roll around, most of us parents have muttered “I can’t wait for school to start” more than once.
It’s a double edged sword, summer break. We begin with the idea that no schedules, sleeping late, camp and family vacations are going to bring us weeks of euphoria. We block out the eventual overtired, cranky, mouthy, unappreciative kids that come with that euphoria. Ten weeks is a long time to be carefree. And it’s a long time to have to juggle schedules and camps and activities to keep our kids entertained (code for keeping them out of trouble).
By the time mid summer rolls around, the mere hint of back to school gets us excited. We walk around the stores and see piles of school supplies calling our name while at the same time we lament that we couldn’t possibly be thinking about back to school already. Until the week when your kids are on your last nerve. You know that week. The one where they repeatedly tell you they’re bored, even though they’re neck deep in activity all day long. The week where they pick fights with their siblings for no reason, I mean, I know that happens every day, but when it’s summer it feels like it’s more often. The week where they argue about bedtime because “MOMMMM...it’s summer!!!” That’s the week I’m talking about, the turning week.
We’re ready for structure again. We want schedules. We want to know our kids are in one place all day long and that we don’t have to worry about picking them up from a half day of soccer camp to schlep them to a half day of dance camp just to keep their day full. We want school. Except we don’t want the stress that comes with it. You see, double edged sword.
Back to school season has become one full of stress for us parents and our kids. We scramble to get summer homework packets finished - because instead of allocating time to do school work every day like we said we would, we’re cramming it into the last few days before school starts! We make lists of supplies, new clothes and shoes and backpacks that need to be procured. We are on multiple group emails and texts between parents about teacher assignments. It’s exhausting!
So how do we make our last few weeks of summer less stressful? How can we enjoy our last lazy days in the sun and at the same time plan and organize for back to school without losing our cool?
First we have to actually be excited about back to school and mean it. Talk to your kids about how great the new school year is going to be. Tell them stories of when you were their age, it makes you more relatable and can help ease some anxiety your kids may be harboring. If you can show them you’ve been there, done that and survived, you’re golden!
Once you’ve generated some positive buzz about back to school and quelled some anxiety, spend some time with your kiddos. Don’t wait until the day before school to go shopping for supplies. I like to take each of my kids separately to do their shopping. We have a date day that consists of shopping for sneakers, some clothes, school supplies, lunch and ice cream.
It gives us the opportunity to have some alone time without siblings to connect and catch up. It’s one of my favorite days of the year.
After you’ve shopped for your kids new loot, get them involved! Enlist their help to get their gear organized. It would be terrible to wake up on the first day of school frazzled and unprepared. Have your kids pack their new backpacks, label their folders and find homes for everything. Being prepared and ready to go creates an atmosphere of ease, and can help with the back to school jitters you’re all experiencing.
Finally, celebrate together. The day before school starts, we like to have a family day. We go to the park or do something together to cap off summer and kick off back to school. We have a family dinner, get some dessert and watch a movie. We share our favorite summer stories and set expectations for the upcoming school year. We make it a celebration, a day filled with love, laughter and calm.
Back to school doesn’t have to be a challenge if you choose to make it fun and include your kids in the process. Here’s to a successful back to school time for you and your family!!