Summer went by so fast. It always does when you have school-age kids. Maybe you’ve been on a vacation, running around to all the sports activities, taking the kids to summer camps, or just chilling out in between work and time with your family. Now, as you start getting kids ready to go back to school, it’s a stressful time!
Every year, as summer draws to a close, I keep thinking that I’ll be more prepared this year. But life gets in the way. That’s why I’m such a strong believer in a back-to-school checklist! It’s the best (really, the ONLY) way to keep on track with what’s coming in the next few weeks.
The Back-To-School Checklist
Preparation is key when you’re trying to transition to the back-to-school routine. Here are just a few tips that will help get you and your kids ready to go back to school.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Start the school year off on the right foot by making sure your kids are well-rested. Even though it sounds easy enough to just get them back on the school sleep schedule, it’s not always as easy as you’d like. Your kids are probably used to sleeping in, dressing in shorts and a T-shirt every day, and having more of a flexible schedule.
Even if they went to summer camp, daycare, played sports, or had lots of sleepovers with their friends, the summer schedule is typically not as rigid as the one you need to follow for your back-to-school routine. So, sit down and make a schedule for what the upcoming school season will look like.
Depending on how old your kids are, you can go through the schedule with them and start getting them used to the idea. This new schedule is for you as well as the kids. When you all know what to expect, you can make small changes over the next few weeks that will help you feel and be prepared for the first day of school.
Eat A Healthy Breakfast
Schools and teachers always talk about the need for a nutritious and protein-rich breakfast for testing, but kids really need it every day. Healthy eating patterns should include fruits and vegetables, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and protein-rich foods. Nutrition is key to power your kids through their day, but it also ensures that your kids stay healthy as they grow and develop.
Eating a healthy breakfast can be challenging when you head back to school, particularly since you’re not yet used to the new schedule. That’s also why it’s so important to plan ahead. If you already have healthy breakfast options ready to make or take with you, it’s easy to stick to healthy eating.
Pack A Healthy Lunch
Healthy eating doesn’t start and stop with a nutritious breakfast. Consider the nutrition that your child needs to keep them energized and focused throughout the day. At least, with breakfast, you can see and make sure that your child eats a healthy meal. Lunches are more difficult, because you’re not there to see what they’re actually eating at lunch.
So, you need to plan ahead for both packing their lunch, but also include check-ins to find out how lunches are going and plan for ongoing lunch production. It sounds a bit like manufacturing, I know. But, ultimately, making and taking lunches are part of your production process that will get your kids out of the house and through their day of school.
Packing a healthy lunch also ensures they’ll be able to function to the best of their ability with the focus they need to get through their day. While your kids might prefer a sugar-filled lunch, that’s more likely to leave them struggling. Some kids (and I know my kids are part of this group) have a difficult time concentrating when they don’t eat a healthy, protein-rich meal.
Dress For Success
School uniforms have been around since 1552, which means they’ve been tried and tested to be effective for improving the performance of our kids in school. That’s part of why 20% of schools in the U.S. require uniforms for their students. My kids have worn uniforms in the past (and my youngest is required to wear a uniform again this coming school year).
Honestly, uniforms do make it much easier to get them up and going in the morning. But I also love that my kids are able to demonstrate their personality and sense of style with non-uniform dress codes. Whether you’re facing uniforms or just “regular” dress codes, focus on finding ways to ensure your kids are comfortable.
Even with uniforms, your kids can usually wear layers underneath for warmth and comfort. And most schools allow shorts (even if they are the dressy kind) for hot days. As you look for ways to make sure your kids are comfortable, you might look at sizing the clothes up a bit to make sure they can easily move around.
My kids are particularly sensitive to itchy clothing, but we use fabric softeners and layering to make those uncomfortable fabrics more bearable. Also, while more T-shirts and even polo shirts now come tag free or print the “tag” directly on the fabric, you can still remove the tag from the shirt to nix that itchy annoyance at the back of the neck.
You don’t want the clothes to fall off your kids during the day, but you don’t want their breathing restricted while they sit at their desk all day. They also need to be able to run around and use up that energy that’s been pent up in the classroom. The sizing versus comfort dilemma can be a challenge.
Seven states (Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and New Mexico) all have a tax-free weekend, so you can save money while buying school supplies. While it’s beneficial, you should also be careful that you don’t go overboard with generic or unsanctioned school supply lists. What do I mean by that?
Your kids need backpacks, notebooks, lined school paper, and pencils. But some stores put lists of school supplies out front. It’s supposed to be a convenience, and generally speaking, the lists are fairly correct. Sometimes the stores even get the lists directly from the schools, so they really should be legit, right?
The problem arises when you buy your supplies early, when you still have a week or two before school starts. You still haven’t heard from your kid’s teacher, so you don’t know exactly what they’ll require. It is easier to plan ahead, but you should be aware that you might end up with some supplies that the teacher doesn’t want or need.
Like I said, it’s not the end of the world. The school supplies might end up back in your at-home stockpile of school materials. Or, if you simply can’t bear the mess of more unneeded supplies, you can donate them to other kids who will put them to use right away. If donation is the best solution, here are a few options.
Local Supply Drive: You’ve probably noticed the huge cardboard boxes of “stuff” that have cropped up at your local grocery store. You might see them at the community center, library, or other local gathering places. Local nonprofits also buy and collect school supplies to support students (and families) in need.
Kids in Need Foundation: Here’s one way that your school supplies can make a huge difference for kids in underserved communities. The foundation also supplies teachers with much-needed supplies; and they work to support those affected by natural disasters.
Compudopt: I didn’t talk much about computers and laptops, but it’s become a big expense for families heading back to school. While some schools sign out laptops to students, that’s not always the case. So, if you have spare computers, keyboards or other computer equipment, you can donate them to Compudopt. Or consider Computers with Causes.
Take A Huge Step Back
This one might be the most important tip yet. It certainly is for me and my family. In the hustle and bustle of getting ready for school and making sure everyone is out the door and on their way, take some time to relish this moment. Take it all in and enjoy it. Your kids are growing up. It’s even possible that some of your kids are already out the door to college, work, and life.
Taking a step back is not only about remembering what’s important; it’s also about checking in with yourself and your kids. How are you doing? How are your kids doing? How are you handling the stress? What can you do to make this year more healthy and manageable for all of you? This tip is more than just about sitting down to figure out your schedule.
In the constant onslaught of busy life, have you stopped to realize and appreciate the stressors in life that you’re dealing with at home, work, or beyond? Take time to let yourself breathe. You might realize you’re close to the breaking point (this year has been so hard for so many of the parents and kids that I know). Maybe now is time to re-evaluate whether you really can do it all.
Or maybe it’s time to reach out to family, friends, or even a therapist to ask for help. This is an exciting time of the year, full of promise and possibility. It’s also stressful. So, as part of your preparation, check in with your kids and yourself too. Be aware if you need help and be willing to ask for help.
How do you handle getting kids ready to go back to school? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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