If the thought of returning your young scholars to their education raises your blood pressure, try to chill. With a bit of planning, patience, and calm, you can slowly steer your family from the frolicsome days of sprinklers and monkey bars to the much more structured routines of the school year. Play your cards right, and you'll be able to sneak in a little self-care to help get you through the transition, too.
1. Switch to School Hours: The changeover from months of sleeping in to waking up at 7 a.m. and organizing backpacks can be jarring for you and your kids. Avoid the rude awakening by slowly altering bedtimes and wake-up times over the course of a week or two. This way, when the first day of school dawns, you and your troops will be ready to roll.
2. Skip the Shopping Nightmare: Yes, you can take a pass on that famously grueling, all-day marathon of scouring the stores for everything from notebooks to nifty duds. Why buy jeans for your son in the sweltering heat of August when he won't even wear them for a month? Buy one first-day ensemble, perhaps in a roomier size. Your child will kick off the year in spiffy style, and when the warm winds of May come around, the outfit will probably still fit. You can gradually build a school wardrobe over a few solo trips. That way, you'll have the stores to yourself and you can later return the items that didn't fit.
As for school supplies, shoot for rounding these up in the space of an hour. Grab your list and head out during the evening. Usually, by this time the stores are no longer glutted with crazed kids and parents and you can shop with speed. Carve out a few hours to take each child out on his or her own shopping trip. You can even launch a seasonal ritual you'll both enjoy: Search for the perfectly themed backpack and lunch box and then hit the movies for a Mom-and-kid flick.
3. Prepare Emotionally: Even the most social child may have misgivings about the launch of a new school year. The first week can be especially difficult with new teachers, routines, and surroundings. Help your child tackle his anxieties — and yours — by having a heart-to-heart about the beginning of the school year. Make sure your child knows that it will take a couple of weeks to get used to everything. He won't be perfectly comfortable at the end of the first day and it will take some time to sort things out. Talking through some of these common apprehensions will soothe everyone's nerves.
4. Sneak in Self-Care: When you nurture yourself, you'll be at full strength and ready to tackle the challenges of the year. Try booking a babysitter and going for a bike ride or stroll with your partner or a close friend. You can enjoy each other's company and possibly map out the year ahead. If an outing is out of the question, try some in-home TLC. With the youngsters now tucked in earlier for school, enjoy that extra half hour doing whatever you love.