How to Never Sing the Back to School Blues
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
I am a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. I make them with such hope and excitement, ready for a fresh start. I am so ready to re-start them on Monday, after I have bombed one or more of them the previous week. Summer comes and I know there will be no restarting of resolutions, thanks to the long days and indulgent nature of summer vacation. After a fun-filled summer, we get to the end of August and we are ALL a mess. Overtired. Under-worked. Motivated by little. And then school is on the horizon. AHHH! It looms ahead, with an opportunity to right the ship and get back to business.
Don't get me wrong. We enjoy summers very much. But enough is enough. Back to school means back to a routine - for kids AND parents alike. So we should embrace it. Not just the freedom of dropping the kids off for long periods of time but the opportunity to recapture OUR schedule as household manager and generally sane human being. Back to school is the the perfect time to begin again. So here are my 5 basics for making the most out of back to school:
1. Set easy goals. Goals for everyone are a great to way to get excited about a new year. In my house we ALL spend some time thinking about and writing down our goals for the new school year. My 4th grader declared that he was going to do his homework at his desk. In order to do that, he would need to clear his desk first, which becomes his responsibility since he wants to have an opportunity to reach his goal of working at the desk. Do you see how that worked? He made a goal - not me. But I made it clear that in order to reach his goal, he would need to do something else (which happens to be what I wanted him to do anyway), and we are both happy. Doesn't always work out that way but I love it when it does!
My daughter (six and sassy), decided she was going to try and read more, like when she is eating her after school snack or at the quiet breakfast table. And I would support this goal by placing fresh NatGeo Kids and Ladybug Magazines on the kitchen table every few days.
For myself, I decided to create a snack platter every afternoon. Instead of the kids asking and digging for snacks, which are usually not healthy, I will prepare a platter with a variety of things, including fruits and cheese and veggies. They can nibble all afternoon without pulling on my sleeves. And when I get the nibbles while I'm cooking dinner, I have something healthy to reach for, too. Bonus.
2. Sleep. We get back onto a sleep schedule. We all need it. I'm lucky because my kids have always been pretty good sleepers but its never too late to develop better sleep habits. The studies are in and families that commit to good sleep habits are happier. We don't do screens during the week anyway, but engaging in quiet activities after dinner and shower will help calm us all for sleep. Reading and snuggles in bed are a favorite activity. Talking about the great day ahead makes for sweet dreams. And the adults in the house are not exempt. I know that for myself, I tend to be a night owl, ready and able to get more done at night when things are quiet. I can easily get drawn into a television show, a silly app, or the news on my device. Sleep goals for the new school year include powering down screens by 9:30. Getting to bed by 10, asleep by 10:30 after truly quiet reading or conversation with the husband. And getting up at the same time each morning.
3. Do not over-schedule, especially in the fall. My temptation is to sign them up for everything! We need activities, people! Dance and music and soccer and science and....we really could fill up each and every night with an activity. I find that diving right back into a full schedule makes September particularly challenging. We like to ease into it. And we love our down time, too. It's kind of nice to come home from school and not have to hop back into the car for any reason. It's kind of nice to let the kids linger at the school playground with friends without fear of being late for something else. I love having kids that are active and engaged but I hate preventing them from having any time for just being - well - kids. We have a ton of crafts and board games and fun stuff to do that doesn't require anything except a little bit of time so in fall especially, I try to focus on doing those things with them as we find out what we really want to do with our time.
4. Have dinner together. It seems so simple but I know this is a hard one for many. Planning meals at the start of the week and setting up the schedule for meals that allows for most family members to be at the table ready to eat together is such a gift. We go from having our kids with us for most of the day during the summer to immediately never seeing them because they are at school all day. Dinner is the opportunity to see and hear each other, and it is such valuable time. Dinners together once school starts can be the most important step we take to keep the family connected and not stressed about the changes that new school years and new schedules bring.
5. Create a schedule for yourself. The first few days back I am in full "catch up" mode. My laundry decides to multiply, or at least that is how it feels with towels and blankets and left-over summer stuff to clean and tuck away. The house is usually not in top form, with new school clothing around but maybe not incorporated fully because the drawers and closets are full of outgrown clothes. And since the kids have been around, there has been much less time and energy for daily tidying and maintenance. I do spend the first week back cleaning the house and getting back to our baseline.
By the second week, I begin to remember how much time I really have once the kids are at school. 6 hours! And if I let them walk to and from school independently, I have 6.5 hours. It's overwhelming. 6.5 hours is time for 5 episodes of Grey's Anatomy, plus a lunch break. Or 3 episodes of Columbo, with time for the necessary rewinds to understand fully how he solved the murder once again. 6.5 hours is enough time to bury myself in a sewing project, read nearly an entire book, go to lunch and shopping with a friend while ignoring the phone calls I need to make. I mean - that's a lot of time that we could waste, without really trying!! Not that watching tv, crafting or time with friends is a waste. But there is just so much more that I could be doing. So I put myself on a schedule. I block out time for what needs to get done (laundry, errands, sous chef-ing dinner in the AM, cleaning) and then I fill it in with my wants once I know I'll have time for that without getting behind. I use a planner for my days, just like an executive with a full plate of meetings. Just because we are not in an office does not mean we don't have stuff to do! So I treat it like that and honor the fact that I have such freedom during my day by using it wisely, and proudly. And then when the kids get home from a long day at school, I am ready to fully commit to being at the mercy of their schedules and needs without feeling like I didn't have any time for myself. I had 6.5 hours - - the possibilities are endless!
The kids are back to school. So let's get to work.