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Back to school sanity savers

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Back to school sanity savers

I’m always relieved when my kids are finally home for the summer, yet equally relieved when the school year starts up again. My relief at sending them back is often eclipsed by the insanity that the back to school season brings. However, waving goodbye to the yellow school bus doesn’t have to be stressful and overwhelming.

Start Shopping Early

No one wants to think about composition notebooks and glue sticks in July, but the fact is, the sooner you start shopping, the more likely it is you will be able to locate all six obscure colors of folders, the elusive 36-pack of crayons, and a lunchbox that your child will consent to. Many large discount and office supply stores carry supply lists from local schools. One trick is to stop in at the school office at the end of the year and ask if you can get a copy of the list for fall. Even if your child’s backpack, bag or lunchbox seems like it has some life left in it, buy a new one. There is very little selection when it gets worn out in January.

Coping with Change

If this is a big year for you, with one starting kindergarten, an oldest moving to high school, or your last child heading off to school, you already know it’s going to be emotionally difficult. Have a good cry by yourself in advance and then try to be all smiles the morning of the big send-off. A little tearing up is ok, but wracking sobs at the bus stop will help neither of you. Plan the first morning of school so that you are all business – packing lunches, tying shoes, loading backpacks – and have little time to think. Taking a quick photo before your child heads off is a great way to remember the day.

Clothing Craze

Although most stores start to carry fall clothes by mid-summer, the truth is, the selection is limited and it’s not exactly going to be snowing by the end of September. There is no real rush to buy "school clothes". Most kids are still heading to school in t-shirts for at least the first month of the school year, longer depending on where you live. Stocking up on flannel and sweaters is not urgent for quite a while. Save yourself the insanity and instead buy basics only if your child needs them, like jeans and sneakers, which are seasonless.

Do Some Run-Throughs

Whether your child is starting at a new building or is just in a new hallway in the current building, heading to the school a few days before school starts can help your child get some peace of mind. Have an elementary schooler practice walking from the front doors to the classroom. Walk a middle-schooler through his or her schedule several times. Help your child find his or locker. Doing these things in advance will help your child feel much more comfortable about the first day of school and greatly reduce your worries.

Plan Your Life
There’s nothing worse than looking forward to the start of school only to find yourself at loose ends once the kids finally head out the door. Plan your first week in advance, so that you too have something to look forward to once school starts. Allow yourself some quiet moments with your coffee after your child leaves or reward yourself with a shopping trip that day. Planning ahead also means you can make some arrangements to avoid the pitfalls of schedule adjustment. Make and freeze a few meals in advance that you can easily defrost for dinner that first crazy week when classes and activities get going. Plan carpooling ahead, so you aren’t scrambling to get one child to football tryouts and another to dance class on the same afternoon.

Get Organized

The first week of school often creates an avalanche of paperwork for parents. You need to fill out emergency contact forms, sign permission slips, and send in various quantities of cash for classroom funds, uniforms, locks, lockers and more. Go to the bank the week before school starts and get at least $20 in coins so you have small denominations of cash ready to stuff and send back. Create a box, drawer, or shelf where all incoming paperwork will be placed. It’s hard enough to get it all signed and sent back, let alone having to search through the house to find it all. Immediately calendar all dates you are notified of. Do not assume you will get a second notification, because many times you will not.

The back-to-school season can be fun and manageable for everyone in your household.

Brette Sember is a mother of two and author of over 30 books, including How to Parent with Your Ex, Your Plus-Size Pregnancy, and The Divorce Organizer & Planner.  Her web site is