Although summer’s heat has not yet faded, ready or not, a new school year is fast approaching. And with that comes the early-morning frenzy as parents across America race to get kids out the door on time, properly fed and with all the snacks, books and homework they need for the day.
The start of school brings on new challenges as families juggle various activities and multiple schedules. The good news is that you can bring order to this chaos and stay organized throughout the year when you apply the following tips.
Clear the Clutter
Kids and clutter go hand-in-hand as they outgrow clothes, wear out toys, and change interests. Along with your child, cull through their closets and drawers for items to give away or store for later. Organize the remainder and make room for the new. Each child’s room should be neat and orderly before school starts.
Stock Up and Save
Did you know that back-to-school sales already began in July? Don’t miss out on huge savings on clothing and school supplies. Take an afternoon to assess each child’s wardrobe. Before making your list, check for possible hand-me downs from older siblings. Once you start shopping look for mix-and-match outfits to stretch your dollars and simplify mornings. Find out from the school or teacher what supplies might be needed and take advantage of savings by stocking up on the usual items they’ll need throughout the year like paper, folders, pens, pencils, markers, binders and so on.
Establish Guidelines and Routines Ahead of Time
The most important routine to establish is a set bedtime. It’s a proven fact that well-rested kids are more alert in school, so get them to bed early on school nights. Establish appropriate bedtimes based on age. A 3 to 6-year old child needs 10-12 hours of sleep, a 7 to 12-year old needs 10-11 hours and a 12 to 18-year old needs 8-9 hours. The night before school starts is not the time to set up the household sleep schedule. Instead ease kids into the school year routine slowly during the last two weeks of summer. Gradually begin earlier bedtimes and wake up times as the start of school approaches. Keep in mind it takes an average of two weeks for your body to adjust to time changes.
Set ground rules for other school-related issues as well. For example, establish where, when and how homework will be done – in the dining room, bedroom, with music and the TV on? While some kids sit down immediately after school, others may need to relax before tackling assignments. It’s fine if kids have different times and styles as long as they know the rules and stick to them. Make it clear when cell phones, computer games and internet is shut off. Turning devices off early allows for kids to unwind before lights out.
Have a Dedicated Space for School Items
Select a spot near the door to stash backpacks, books, homework, lunch money and supplies so they’re not strewn about the house. Having a dedicated space or cubby for each child makes it easy to grab what they need without frantically searching the house in the morning. If it stays in one place it will not be forgotten.
Establish a Central Calendar
Between school projects, lunch menus, and sports practice, it’s hard to keep busy schedules straight. That’s where a central calendar helps. Whether you select a large paper calendar with big squares, a bulletin board, an erasable whiteboard or use a smart phone app, choose a format that works for you. Make each child responsible for reporting and recording his or her events. Don’t forget to block off family time each week so you can all reconnect.
Start the Day Calm, Cool and Collected
The more you can do ahead of time, the smoother the mornings will go. The night before set out breakfast dishes, make lunches, lay out clothes, and collect supplies and homework needed for the next day. Older children can assume these responsibilities but be sure to develop consequences if they become lax. Allow for plenty of time to get ready in the morning with a set schedule for the shower, getting dressed and eating breakfast. Many parents find it helpful to complete their own morning routine before getting the kids up. Staying with a set structure creates a sense of order and calm that continues throughout the day.
Planning is key to lowering the anxiety of a new school year. Start organizing today for a great academic year ahead.