Story by Ammie Bryant
Summer vacation is over and with it the lazy days of erratic schedules are gone. School is back in session and it’s time to get back into a regular routine. Now that the first few weeks of school are in the books, most families know what kinds of opportunities and challenges this school year will bring. Regardless of whether you are raising a kindergartener or a senior, these time-tested tips will help the whole family make the most of this season of life.
Time Management is Key
In every aspect of life, time management is the key to making things run efficiently. Planning ahead allows you to make well thought out decisions and do your best work. It also frees up time to have fun. If you plan ahead to get things done, you are more likely to finish on time instead of scrambling at the last minute. Planning also alleviates the unnecessary stress caused by procrastination.
As adults, it is our job to serve as a role model for kids.
Plan meals ahead of time instead of making a last minute decision which often leads to unhealthy choices. For those busy school nights when everyone seems to have extracurricular activities, plan a crockpot meal. You can prepare many of these types of recipes in advance by gathering the ingredients together into freezer bags so that on the morning you want to make the meal you just pull the bag of ingredients plus the meat (if required) out and toss them in the crockpot for the day. That night when you get home your meal will be ready.
Do your grocery shopping and meal prep on the weekends. You can prepare many meals in advance and freeze them. Be sure to check out the breakfast recipe in this month’s issue, it’s perfect for this!
Set up a drop zone. This can be a dedicated area in an entry or anywhere that makes sense for your family. This is where jackets and backpacks are “dropped” after school and it’s even better if there is a place to store away shoes so they don’t go missing when it’s time to leave for school the next day. We have a storage unit with individual cubbies for each member of our family to hang jackets, scarves, and backpacks.
Set up a family calendar–whether this is an app like Cozi or a wall calendar, it doesn’t matter. Some families use both! Just make sure you have a common calendar that everyone can consult to see what is planned for the week and month ahead.
Organize the kitchen so that everyone can easily find and prepare meals and snacks. There is no reason why kids can’t pack their own lunch. Prepare lunch zones in the fridge and the pantry with all the fixings. Their lunches don’t have to be pretty, but they should be balanced: 1 grain, 1 protein, 1 vegetable, and 1 fruit. This works year round.
If you prefer, kids can eat a school lunch. Regardless of whether you opt for home or school lunch, be sure to fill out the free and reduced lunch application, even if you don’t think you qualify. Every child who qualifies for free or reduced benefits helps to determine the amount of funds the district may receive from both state and federal programs.
Remember, every child in Stillwater has access to free breakfast–this comes in especially handy on mornings when everyone is running late.
Get Ready the Night Before
Lay out your clothes the night before. Make sure everyone knows where their shoes are for the day ahead and what kind of shoes may be required for the following day’s activities. Is it a PE day?
Pack backpacks before bed. This is a great time to make sure all assignments are complete and ready to turn in. Not sure the kids are telling you about all their assignments? Campus Portal aka “Infinite Campus” is a great online resource that allows you to view their assignments, attendance, and grades for each class. This applies mostly for the middle and upper grade levels. While I don’t advocate “helicoptering” kids, when it comes to their grades, I do think it’s important to monitor them closely, at least until you are sure your kids have a good handle on their responsibilities. Talk to your school about getting access if you don’t already know you have it.
Take baths or showers at night! Not only does it wash away the allergens that may coat your hair and skin, but it can help relax the body for sleep.
Turn off all screens and put away phones at least 30 minutes before falling to sleep. The shorter wavelengths of blue light produced by electronics can cause the body to produce less melatonin, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
Not only is it important to model time management and organizational strategies it is also important to show kids how to handle stress and take care of yourself. Make yourself a priority. Yes, the kids are important. But they need to learn that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others. You won’t be able to provide for others if you don’t have the strength and energy needed. Rest and recharge!
Self-care can be time alone with a good book, attending a yoga class, going to a concert, getting a massage, or taking a walk. Do whatever helps you to alleviate stress and recharge your batteries. Teach your kids to find healthy ways of coping with stress and to manage their time through advanced planning and organization and the whole family will benefit.
Last but Most Important
Schedule quality family time together. This season of life doesn’t last forever. Make sure to set aside time to spend together as a family making memories that will last a lifetime. Soon those babies will be seniors and headed off on their own adventures without you. You will never regret spending quality time together as a family.