Though back to school should be exciting, parents often describe frantic mornings, hectic evenings, and plain bad memories. Homework wars…lost library books…last-minute assignments…missed buses…sleepy heads…forgotten lunches…missed breakfasts…late starts are just a few of the common parenting concerns. The result: stressed parents…and stressed kids.
But it doesn’t have to—nor should it–be that way. There are practical solutions to the most common back-to-school, and hot button parenting hassles. Not only will implementing those solutions help make the upcoming school year more positive and less stressful for all, but they’ll also help kids learns to be more responsible (which just happens to be a trait of successful students).
You can start making these simple adjustments now so that back to school really is smoother and even a tad bit easier for both you and kids.
The real secret: don’t take this challenge on by yourself. Get your kids involved in identifying last year’s reoccurring problem. Believe me, they’ll remember. Then together brainstorm one simple solution that you commit to turning into it into a lifelong family habit. Take on only one solution at a time. Keep implementing it until it becomes a permanent family routine.
Here are the seven most common back-to-school parenting hassles and a few simple solutions to help create a smoother year.
Hassle 1. SLEEPY HEADS (“Just let me sleep five more minutes!”)
If you recall most of last year screaming “Wake Up!!” it’s time for your kids to take ownership. Buy simple-to-use alarm clocks, and teach kids how to set it so you don’t have to be their “Big Ben.” My favorite alarm for kids who are perpetually late is called Clocky. It gives your kid only one chance to get up, and if you snooze, he literally jumps off the nightstand and wheels around the room. I’m sure there are others but I shared this one on the TODAY show and both Hoda and Kathie Lee loved it.
Also start getting your kid back onto the right “time zone” at least before school starts so he can “ease” into that schedule. And use that oven timer to remind procrastinators that of time constraints. When it dings, you’re in the car – whether the kid is dressed and ready or not. Seriously! That solution only takes one time! Do alert the principal and teacher of your plan. They’ll be happy to help to ensure your child is in his seat and ready to learn.
Hassle 2. BREAKFAST MANIA (“I don’t have time to eat!”)
If breakfast time is frantic and your kids seem to be missing the “most-important meal,” search for quick, healthy alternatives. Instant oatmeal in a cup, bananas, and juice boxes can be ready to grab-and-go.
Extra protein bars can be stashed in backpacks for just-in-case hunger cravings. And put out those bowls and cereal the night before. If you’re really frantic stock your car with extra nutritious goodies. But don’t skip that breakfast!
Hassle 3. MORNING FRANTICNESS (“Where’s my homework?”)
Misplaced library books? “Dad, where’s my backpack?” Can’t find your keys? Identify last year’s one reoccurring nightmare that set off that morning panic attack and then institute one simple solution to cut morning frenzy. Put a box by the door to “catch” those library books, screw in big hooks for coats, make an extra set of car keys (for your).
The key is to turn the new solution into a routine until everyone (even you) adopts the new sanity saver habit. If lost teacher notes, school notices, or conference schedules was a reoccurring problem, set a new family policy: “Walk in, open your backpack, and put any notes or graded papers in the basket.”
Then put a basket near that door, and consistently check it nightly. Tend to those needing your signature, and put them ASAP inside your child’s backpack for next day delivery.
Hassle 4. WHO’S ON FIRST? (“Is it library day, violin, or soccer?”)
If your kids relied on you as their personal manager to recap their schedule, then it’s time to help them get organized. Buy a large white board and grease pens. Use a different colored pen per child for each child can mark his own weekly music lesson, soccer practice, field trip, sharing day, and spelling test under the date and time. Then put it in a central spot (such in the kitchen or on the fridge) so everyone instantly knows who goes where. Photographs or drawings of the event and family member help even the youngest family member keep track of who’s doing what and where.
Hassle 5. WASTED TIME IN CAR POOLS (“Do we have to wait until his game is over?”)
Did you feel more like a taxi cab driver than parent or spend hours waiting in your car for your kid’s lessons to be over? Did your kids resent waiting for the other sibling’s practice to be out? Then set up the inside of your car as a mini-office to utilize that lull time more productively.
Hang a shoe sorter over seat back as a toy organizer, have spare books or tapes to listen to, provide a small ice chest to stock with juice boxes and water which turns into a spare desk and fill a bin with school supplies (pencils, pens, binder paper, flash cards, dictionary, calculator)
For a child to study those spelling words or homework while waiting for a siblings game to be over, stock cookie sheets under the front seat to pull out as an instant desk or tray. The stack perfectly and also make instant desks for kids to do their homework on. P.S.
You can also put magnetic letters on the cookie sheet and your younger child can practice spelling on the tray without the letters falling all over the car. Most cookie sheets are magnetic. Be sure the one you use has the feature.
Hassle 6. MISSING TEACHER/COACH NOTES (“Did you sign the teacher’s note?”)
If missing teacher notes, coach memos, scouting policies, school notices, or conference schedules was a reoccurring problem, set a new family policy: “Walk in, open your backpack, and put any notes or graded papers in the basket.” Then put a basket near that door, and consistently check it nightly. Tend to those items needing your signature, and put them ASAP inside your child’s backpack for next day delivery.
Hassle 7. PARENT OVERLOAD (“Come on, Mom! We have to get going!”)
Did you feel like a hamster on a wheel – running in circles, doing it all, and never getting anywhere? This year it may be time to back off just a bit. Here are ideas: Always rescuing? Then stop. Your kids need to take ownership and stop relying on you as their savior. After all, homework, sports gear, library books are your kid’s responsibility, not yours. Adopt your new mantra:
“Never do for your kid what your kid can do for himself.”
Then announce it to your kids and stick to it. Do everything? Delegate some of those chores to your kids. Research says kids who do chores are more successful students but also turn out to be more responsible. Say “yes” too easily? Write “No” on an index card and tape it to your phone.
Anytime anyone asks you to take on one more thing, say you’ll have to think about it first and call back. The stall time gives you time to think whether you really want to take bake those cupcakes or drive one more place. Stressed out? Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign for a few minutes at the same time each night with a strict rule: No one may disturb you until you remove that sign.
Remember: A happier, less-stressed parent turns out happier, less stressed kids.
So what’s your biggest reoccurring back-to-school hassle? And what did you do to solve it? I’d love to hear from you (and I know others parents would as well).
Happy back to school!
My latest book is called UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. It has dozens of proven ways to help raise kind, caring kids in an uncivil world and dispels the myth that empathy is “soft and fluffy” but essential for our kids.