Did you get back-to-school in style this year? It can be difficult to get back into the swing of a regular routine, but usually by the time the harvest parties start up, everyone has gotten comfortably settled into their school-year patterns. This also means, however, that it can be easy to slip into bad habits that lead to missed homework or last-minute shopping trips.
Here are five great tips for facing the world year-long with as much spunk as you do during that first back-to-school month:
1. Stick to the bed-time.
This one seems like it would be a real no-brainer, but things aren't always so black & white. Everyone has the occasional situation come up where letting your kids stay up past their school-night bedtime is practically a necessity, but that doesn't mean it should become a habit. If you let your kids stay up for something special, try to make sure that it's really something one-of-a-kind that couldn't be done during other hours. As long as you make a big deal out of the bedtime rule, it will be a big deal to your kids too. Not only will they appreciate the times you allow them to stay up late even more, but they will be plenty rested for the school day. As a child who frequently had trouble falling asleep at night, I can certainly testify to the fact that there are few things at that age as torturous as trying to stay awake during class!
2. Ask your kids if they need anything for school at least once a week.
Kids can be funny sometimes. They will put up with half-broken pens or a 'lucky' pencil with no eraser for months but will insist on new folders every time you go to the store. (Even though their current ones are just fine, the problem is that they aren't as cool as their friend's new folders. Duh, mom.) Then there's what I like to call the 'surprise-project' - usually a crucial poster or diorama presentation that they didn't tell you about, put off until the last minute, and then realized they needed supplies for the night before it was due. School-age children usually have a lot of distractions, so don't count on them to tell you if they need something, because it won't always happen. Help them out by checking in with them once a week just to be sure that they don't need something (other than folders with horses or Batman on them) and you'll be doing everyone a favor.
3. Try to cook up at least one make-ahead meal during the weekends.
School years can be a ridiculously busy time for parents. A lot of people jokingly start the school year by talking about parental freedom, but really it can be just the opposite. For homes where both parents are working, it can be a huge stress to get the kids ready for school and on the bus in the morning. And if you have young children? That means an added commute to pick the kids up from daycare or the after-school program. Plus you have to worry about extra-curricular activities, which usually only increase as children get older. Ever have one of those pick-up-the-kids-drive-to-practice-rush-to-gymnastics-late-to-the-dance-rehearsal-and-don't-forget-to-grab-the-dry-cleaning nights? It happens to all of us sometimes. Making at least one meal ahead of time means that even if your evening is crammed full of activities, you'll still be able to give your family a healthy meal without adding to your to-do list.
4. Keep a 'bring-home' folder, and don't stop using it.
Everyone has heard the tip about keeping a folder in your child's backpack for things they need to bring straight to your attention, homework information, and other miscellaneous important items. But let's face it - that folder usually only gets used for about a month. And that means that eventually you are going to fall out of the information loop. When I was younger, my mom would always put that little folder in my backpack, and I would never use it. I'd stick stuff in there for the first week or so, but my mom didn't check it after the first couple of days, so she frequently got surprised by such announcements as, "Oh, mom, before I brush my teeth, I forgot to tell you that there's a pumpkin painting contest tomorrow, and we didn't do mine yet." Or even worse, I usually did my homework in the mornings on the bus. If mom asked if my homework was done, I'd just say yes, and she believed me. Yes, I was naughty. Yes, she should have quizzed me on it to make sure I wasn't lying. But because I wasn't putting my homework in the take-home folder, there was no way she could ask for proof! Make sure your child uses the folder, and make sure you inspect it every night - it will save everyone some hassle.
5. Go into 'vacation-mode' at least once a month.
While I'm certainly not suggesting that you should take your child out of school every few weeks to jet off to Disneyland, it never hurts to have a little fun. School can get so boring for a child, and there's rarely anything to look forward to other than the next big holiday or teacher's day (anything for a day off of school!). Think of what makes summer-time so special for your family and then get creative with making a special night or weekend at home or nearby. Do you like to go to the beach? Head to an indoor waterpark. Frequently spend time at family BBQ's? Invite the relatives over for a potluck dinner. Invest some money in an annual family pass for a local attraction that isn't far away. It doesn't have to be anything big; museums, zoos, and aquariums are all great ideas, and usually relatively cheap. Plus, places like those are educational, which means that your kids will get the added bonus of learning some extra knowledge. You'll be able to spend some fun bonding time with them, and they'll think you're an A+ mom. What can be better than that?
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