So much for the lazy days of summer. The kids are going back to school, and whether you welcome or dread it, it’s time to get your head back in the game. Let’s face it: The start of school requires a whole different mindset.
Just getting kids to and from school (Carpool? Bus? Lunches?) can be hectic. And coming soon? School projects, bake sales, homework and extracurricular activities. Meanwhile, it’s your job to stay grounded — and stay healthy.
Debra Brammer, associate professor at Bastyr University, knows what a challenge those wildly busy school days can be. “It’s important to prioritize the healthy habits you’ve built over the summer as you step back into the structure of school and work,” she says. Continue to eat seven colors of fruits and vegetables — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and white — through fall and winter, she advises. And make sure you set aside time for healthy practices, such as yoga, frequent visits to the gym, biking or hiking.
It’s important to model self-care for your children, says Brammer, who acknowledges that setting time aside “is a challenge once school gets started.” Instead of two-hour blocks, try carving out 15 to 30 minutes of time for yourself. “Even with very young kids, you can initiate quiet time by giving them art supplies to work on for 15 minutes,” she says.
Don’t give up valuable family activities just because summer has ended. “Go off with the kids and spend a few hours down at the beach exploring the tide pools. Spend time outdoors together in your neighborhood,” says Brammer. Have the whole family participate in planning some “together time” each week. Ask your kids if they want to play games or go to a museum or park.
On school days, prioritize family quiet time, she says. Have “tea time” when the kids get home, Brammer suggests. Brew a pot of herb tea, burn candles for atmosphere, lay out snacks and talk with the kids about their day. Make a conscious effort to slow down. “Many people tell me that they like to slow the day down by hand-chopping vegetables instead of using a food processor when they make dinner,” Brammer says. Some parents go a step further and involve the entire family in meal prep.
Create schedules that work for you, rather than allowing external structures to dictate your family life, she says. “Take the time to prioritize obligations — what’s really important, moderately important or not important this week.”
Create a “calming time” to center you at night, Brammer advises. That means no television, computer screens or smart phones. “Spend some time before bed — a half-hour to an hour — reading stories or playing games as a family to calm everyone and smooth the transition to bedtime,” Brammer suggests.
Maria Bellos Fisher is a blogger, freelance writer and mom. Her blog is “Hereditary Insanity: Surviving family by the grace of madness.”
Your back-to-school checklist
In order to get to Zen, you need to organize your to-do list.
Here are some back-to-school tips.
- Organize your closets — try on last year’s school clothes or uniforms to see what still fits. Purge the ones you’ve outgrown.
- Finish summer homework assignments at least several days before school, so you’re not scrambling to get them done.
- Label new school supplies with your name.
- Make a list of lunch and snack foods you would like.
- Start your school routine again — wake up early and go to bed earlier.
- Schedule medical exams and physicals, if needed; then send in the forms to schools. Make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date.
- Go shopping for school supplies, including textbooks. If you need financial assistance to afford the items on your back-to-school list, check out USA.gov.
- Set up the carpool schedule.
- Go shopping for uniforms or school clothes.
- Sign up for after-school programs and add them to your calendar. If your child will be playing sports, he or she may need approval from your family doctor.
- Go grocery shopping for lunches and snacks. Think healthy. Students who eat balanced breakfasts and lunches are more alert in school, and they get better grades than those with poor nutrition. If you need free or low-cost lunches, the National School Lunch Program can help.
- Set up a drop zone in your home for book bags, coats and rain boots for after school. Include a mailbox for every family member — even very young children — so letters from school don’t end up on the kitchen counter.