By Lina Viner
Back to school season is here, and boy am I feeling tired, drained & overwhelmed! Gone are the leisurely days of summer when our routines fizzled away and spontaneity and fun was the name of the game. The first few weeks are the hardest with new schedules, packing lunch, early wake-ups, homework & after school activities.
With my girls starting 4th & 8th grade this year, we decided to have a family meeting before school started in order to set some ground rules & to find ways as a family to streamline the process as much as possible. Here are some things we came up with that have worked our pretty well for our family.
1. Independence is KING:
If you constantly do everything for your kids and expect nothing from them, you will never find out what they are capable of doing on their own. This year we agreed that the girls will be responsible for waking themselves up, getting dressed, making their own breakfast, packing their snacks and water bottle for the day, as well as preparing their dance bag for after school. I am ONLY responsible for packing their actual lunch & overseeing their progress. It's been about three weeks now & I've really enjoyed seeing that the girls can actually do everything for themselves. If I didn't demand this independence from them, I would still be doing everything.
2. Lunch and Dinner Menus
Another thing we did during our meeting is create a weekly lunch and dinner menu. The girls eagerly put this together themselves. These menus have proven to be a huge time and stress saver for me because I know ahead of time what I need to pack them or defrost to make dinner that day. They love knowing what to expect each day. There are days when we make a spontaneous decision and grab some takeout on the way home; the menus are not 100% set in stone, but help streamline day-to-day meals.
3. Split Responsibilities With Your Spouse:
My husband and I both work, so when it comes to the kids, we try to split everything 50/50 to avoid resentment. I wake up with the girls every day, oversee them, and pack their lunch. He drops them off to school.
4. Give Yourself a (Much Needed!) Break
My husband and I each picked a morning that we wanted off. I chose Wednesdays to give myself a mid-week break, and he chose Fridays. On Wednesdays my husband gets the girls ready by himself and drops them off at school while I get to sleep in a bit and enjoy no responsibilities at all! Same goes for him on Fridays. This gives us both a chance to decompress during the week.
5. It Takes a Village! Ask For Help!
Our schedule is overwhelming. Our girls are dancers and dance mom life is HARD! They dance 5 days a week and although they go to the same dance school, due to their four year age difference they are on different teams so they start and finish class each day at different times. Coordinating and asking for help from family and friends is essential. I have both my mom and my mother-in-law helping to pick up the girls from school and a fellow dance mom carpooling the girls to dance as well. I have a hard time asking people for help and normally have a tendency to try to tackle everything alone...but in some cases it's just impossible and you'd be surprised to learn that people love to be helpful and are usually more than willing to come to the rescue when you need the help.
6. Make a List of Rules and Expectations...And Stick To Them
I used to get frustrated with my kids because of their lack of efficiency when they get home. I felt like they would get home and just waste time and not get showers, homework, etc. done in a timely manner. I quickly realized that it's not their fault...they just don't have a clear understanding of what we expect from them. So we made a list. Here is our very specific list:
- When you get ready in the morning have your dance bag ready before you leave for school
- As soon as you get home put your book bags away
- Unpack your lunch box
- Wash your hands
- Eat dinner
- No play dates on weeknights
- Shower before bed is not negotiable
- Bed time is set by age group: 9:30 for my 4th grader and 10:30 for my 8th grader. We are very strict about this.
7. Order Your Groceries Online
This is by far one of the best things I've ever done for myself. I have grocery shopping so much. I used to dread my weekly trips. We use Amazon Fresh for our grocery deliveries. I only pop into the store to grab fresh fruit and veggies. Everything else gets delivered. Trust me....this is a game changer.
Back to school is a very stressful time for our family. It's so hard getting back into a routine and juggling after school activities, work, groceries, appointments, homework & projects. These seven things have really helped my family stay more sane. Good luck!