Toronto kids went back to school last week. Most families, however, are still struggling to get back into the routine of work and school. After months of long, lazy days, we’re all rushing to get out the door in the morning, driving around to appointments and activities, and trying to get back in the groove at work. It isn’t easy. Today we’re sharing five tips to help you handle the back-to-school rush, so that you can beat the stress and maybe even (dare we say it?) re-claim a little bit of time for yourself.
Five Tips for Taming the Back-to-School Frenzy
1. Set Limits on Activities
Back-to-school time also means a return to extra-curricular activities. Kids enjoy – and benefit from – participating in music, dance, sports, swimming, clubs and so on. Some families also use after-school activities as a sort of back-up childcare. If you find that you’re living in your car and surviving on fast food, however, things may be out of whack. Before that happens, sit down and plan your schedule. Decide how many activities each child can reasonably participate in, and which parent will be responsible for taking which kid to each activity. Remember that kids need downtime, too, and that there are lots of benefits to free play. You’re not a bad parent if you set limits on how much time you spend shuttling your kids from the pool to the rink to the rec centre and back again.
2. Prepare the Night Before
The morning rush to get out the door is a very stressful time for many families. Trying to get everyone fed and dressed, packing lunches and brushing teeth, finding homework and backpacks and your favourite scarf … it all adds up to a whole lot of running around. The more you can prepare the night before, the less stressful the mornings will be. Whether that means packing lunches at night, laying out the kids’ clothes before they go to sleep, or showering when the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, anything you do at night will be one less thing you have to do the next morning.
3. Get Help
Let’s face it, no mom can do it all. Holding down a job, raising kids, taking care of a home, nurturing a marriage and pursuing your own interests is a lot to take on. You’ll likely find that you’re more successful if you enlist help. You might want to consider setting aside some money in your budget to have someone come in and help you clean every other week – or more often than that until you get in the back-to-school groove. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to let someone else do the vacuuming? Do some batch cooking with other families, so that you have some healthy dinners ready-to-go. Maybe you can arrange childcare swaps with a friend, so that you have a few free hours every other weekend to do something on your own or with your partner. Speaking of your partner, work together to create a work distribution that works as well as possible for both of you. And don’t forget about your children, which leads us to …
4. Enlist Your Children
Your kids can help make back-to-school smoother. If you set up a routine and make it clear what everyone is responsible for, you may be surprised by what your little ones can do. Even very young children can put their lunch and water bottle in their backpack, unpack at the end of the day, or help lay out their clothes the night before. Older kids can help with making lunches, pitch in with household chores and get themselves ready for school. Making a list – in words or pictures – of what everyone has to do every day can help to establish the routine and get your whole family on the same page.
5. Schedule Downtime
Many Toronto moms live and die by their calendars, with everything scheduled down to the minute. We joke that if it’s not in there, it doesn’t happen. Is it any surprise, then, that so few of us have any time for ourselves? One way to turn that around to is to schedule downtime in your calendar. Even if it’s only fifteen minutes, it’s a start. Resist the temptation to cook or clean or go through the kids’ school newsletters. Use it to help refresh your mental state. The more that you take care of your own needs, the more efficient you’ll be when you’re taking care of everything else. That downtime can pay off in spades when you’re not as tired or stressed out.
What about you – how are you beating the back-to-school frenzy? Leave a reply and share your tips!