Week 6: Avoiding Back-to-School Chaos
Words of advice on managing the stress and chaos of the back-to-school season, whether they are entering kindergarten or college, and managing the emotions that all moms experience.
Summer is nearly over, and school starts back in 21 days!
Although the beginning of school is still a few weeks away, life has already gotten busier around the Miles’ home and the remaining days of leisure seem to be slipping through our fingers.
My son has football practice every single morning at 8am, 6 days a week. My daughter has cheer practice every day, and a few college campus tours we have planned for this month. My oldest daughter is moving into her first apartment in a couple weeks when she returns to college, and the list of her needs has become longer than Santa’s nice and naughty list – so lots of shopping and searching for apartment necessities has been on our agenda every day. And back to school clothes and supply shopping hasn’t even begun yet, not to mention my mama bird emotions swirling around!
With so much going on this month with family, ministry and back to school prep, I found myself feeling especially exhausted the other day so I sat down on my couch for a moment to rest. As I sat there doing nothing, which is highly unusual for me, I began to think about the last time I paused long enough to sit down and rest. Without getting up to pick up half empty cups of sweet tea that were left laying around; without feeling pulled to look at my email; without being drawn to the laundry room like a magnet because surely a new load of clothes had appeared; without feeling the need to be taking care of something for someone somewhere.
The more I thought about it, I realized that I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I stopped to rest.
It was if the Energizer bunny had taken over my body and I was scooting around from place to place, assuming that I didn’t have time to just “do nothing”, while also assuming that I could keep that energy going forever. But let’s face it – even Energizer batteries eventually run out of energy.
If we push ourselves too hard, and never take time to rest during busy seasons of life, eventually we will run out of energy too. As I prayed for God to help me avoid the chaos of this season and remember to take time to rest and be with Him, He pricked my heart to remind me that no matter what time of year it is, there is only so much I can do, but that I can be organized enough to avoid being overwhelmed.
If you are like me and have school age kids going back to school, or college age kids preparing to leave the nest, your list of to-do’s right now might seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. The biggest hurdle to avoiding the chaos of this season of the year is a lack of organization – and that is something that we all have control over, even if organization is not our spiritual gift.
The art of organization is often overlooked during the busiest times of the year, and this oversight can cause us to exert a lot more energy than we really need to. When there are forty seven thousand things we need to get done before school, and every child has different needs and wants, trying to keep track of them all in our minds (while the days quickly tick off one by one fast than we want them to) can zap our energy, mentally and physically.
For anyone who has school or college age children, we can’t help but be busy this time of year. But being busy with important things does not have to lead to feeling overwhelmed because life seems to be in disarray. If we take time to get organized before the real rush hour hits, we can manage our time and our emotions in a healthy way for everyone.
Below are a few tips for managing the busyness of the back-t0-school season for school age kids before the full season of chaos hits:
* Don’t underestimate the power of a to-do list. Lists are not just for Type A personalities. Everyone (especially busy moms) benefit from to-do lists. If you are not a list-maker, now is a great time to start being one. Make a list of all the things you need to do before school starts. Take a look at your list and categorize your to-do’s as much as possible into sections – such as things you need to purchase, forms you need to get filled out, stores you need to visit, specific clothing needs, etc. Then look at your calendar, and determine which day/time you can carry out each of those to-do’s.
* Don’t wait until the last minute to get school supplies. It never fails that I wait until 2 days before school is supposed to start to tackle school-supply shopping. Each year I show up at the store ready to knock out our supply lists, only to discover that the store looks like a hurricane barreled through it, leaving no 3 ring binders anywhere to be found, the only folders left are hideous colors that nobody wants, and cow notebooks and tabs have become extinct. A lot of stress and lame excuses can be avoided by simply shopping early.
* If you have more than one child, consider taking them shopping separately for school supplies. I can recall the many years I spent in Target with 3 separate grade lists taped to my red cart, frantically trying to mark off each item as the kids hapharzardly tossed various supplies into the growing pile in our cart. I was always frazzled by the time our shopping outing was over and we always managed to overlook something important. I’ve learned that shopping with the kids one at a time can prevent a lot of unnecessary chaos – plus help avoid trips back to the store for forgotten items.
* Purchase lunch boxes as soon as they hit the retail shelves. Otherwise, your son might have a meltdown when the only lunchboxes left on the shelf are Dora the Explorer and Hello Kitty. Also consider ordering one online, making sure delivery will happen before the first day of school. One website I have used in the past is lunchboxes.com
* Take time before school starts to assess your child’s clothing needs. Do some “fall cleaning” and empty out drawers and closets of all clothing that is outgrown, worn-out or disliked, and donate them. Make a list of exactly what they need and plan a shopping trip to search specifically for those items. Match up what you need with your budget to avoid any stress at the cash register.
* If your child is playing a sport, or considering playing a sport, go ahead and get a sports physical before you know you even need one. Nothing creates more stress than when a signed medical form is required by the coach immediately and you can’t get a doctor’s appointment for two weeks.
* Set up a filing system in preparation for all the papers they will bring home on the first day of school, and throughout the year. Use 3 ring binders and colorful tabs to organize your system – by child, by sport, by activity, by date, etc. Plan to make copies of everything you sign and turn in so that if you need an extra copy, you’ll be able to easily access it. You can also store payment receipts and teacher notes in these folders for future reference.
* Create a homework station (especially if homework has been an area of conflict in the past). Pick out a spot in the home that is most suitable for homework and purchase some plastic drawers or a bookshelf to put in that area. Stock up on supplies and tools that kids need for homework, such as pens, pencils, erasers, notebook paper, crayons, markers, rulers, calculators, a dictionary, general craft supplies and a pencil sharpener. Make this a place where your child enjoys being, so they can look forward to doing homework, instead of dreading it or putting up a fuss. This helps get the kids excited about doing homework, before they even have any!
* Even if your children adamantly resist, consider getting them up early every day during the week BEFORE school starts. This helps them to establish a routine and be prepared to get up early for school. Trying to go cold-turkey with the daily alarm clock, starting the first day of school, usually doesn’t work so well. Also, consider getting each child their own alarm clock, no matter their age.
* If money is tight, start looking now for sales on items that you know your child will need, even if you don’t have their full supply list yet from school. Do an online search for local organizations that help provide school supplies and fill out any required applications.
* Buy a big family calendar and write down all important dates, such as ball games, practices, field trips, PTA meetings, etc. If you see any overlap or conflicts, go ahead and plan for how to deal with them and make appropriate arrangements in advance.
There are things we can do to avoid being the Energizer bunny, and avoid having our batteries drained. To be organized during the back to school season means to be calm and stress-free! And I bet you want that as much as I do, so that the chaos stays at someone else’s house, and not ours. Smiles 🙂