I know it feels too early, but back-to-school is right around the corner. You barely breathed a sigh of relief and now I’m reminding you of the next school year coming up. Sorry – NOT sorry! I want you to tackle this next school year with purpose and authority, not dread and reactiveness. Right now while you have some breathing room you can set up your household to be ready, and set up your children to take responsibility for their success in school.
Think back to the school year that just ended. What are some of the issues that took you by surprise or were always a problem? Ask God to reveal those issues and wisdom to deal with them (James 1:5). Were you overwhelmed by the list of supplies you had to provide at the beginning of the year? Did the kids misplace homework or library books around the house? Were you constantly hunting for something quick for them to grab for a snack or breakfast? Were you dreading how you would deal with your son when the principal called to tell you your boy hit another student? Here are some ideas to help you prepare ahead of time and relieve some of the stress caused by decisions in the moment and the chaos of being disorganized. Feel free to modify this list and please let me know if you have suggestions!
1. Start to tackle the overwhelming list of school supplies now! It feels like the lists get longer and longer every year! Just like Christmas, parents (not Santa) have to provide the items on these school supply lists every year at the same time, and it can be just as expensive as Christmas. To help relieve some of this burden, plan to buy one or two things with each trip to the store between now and the beginning of the school year. You can buy things like lined loose leaf paper by Mead (and just about anything you will need) ahead of time on Amazon.com as well! Look online for your school’s list from last year, or find another school’s list. Most of the school supplies will be the same from one year to the next, and from one school to the next. I do understand that some states offer tax-free shopping at the beginning of the school year and I definitely encourage taking advantage of that. Think about this, though. Do you want to wait to get everything at the same time everyone else does, and risk the store selling out? Or do you want to cut down the time you have to spend in the madness and only have to buy a few of the most expensive items that you have saved for this crazy shopping trip? Just a thought!
2. Prepare a landing zone. Remember how many times the kids forgot homework or jackets last school year? You can alleviate the stress of the ritual daily treasure hunt by establishing one spot where everything goes before and after school. After homework is done for the night have the kids put it in their backpacks and put the backpacks in the landing zone. You can have fun by letting them help create this zone. Find colorful baskets or (decorate your own) that will hold things like snacks, sunglasses, lunch cards or anything they don’t want to forget. Install hooks like these cute shabby chic wall hooks for jackets and sweaters and make it a nightly routine before bed to stage everything they need for school in the landing zone.
3. Prepare a breakfast and snack zone in the kitchen. This can be another fun project the kids can help with that will cut down on the hunt for easy to grab breakfast items when you are rushing out of the house, and will make finding snacks easy after school. Make one shelf in your pantry, cabinet and/or refrigerator the breakfast and snack zone. Have the kids come up with healthy ideas for breakfast and snacks, and give them the freedom to choose anything from that zone. Challenge them to pick foods with protein to keep their bellies and brains satisfied and to reduce the sugar spike. More on this in a later post.
4. Come up with ideas ahead of time on how you will deal with problems at school. Take a look at the list you asked God to reveal to you. What will the consequences at home be for the dreaded call from the principal? How will you establish consequences for poor grades? Write these out in a place you will remember. Most of the suggestions in this blog post involve the children’s participation, but this one enforces your authority and should be your ideas. The children will get to participate by acknowledging the consequences in step 6 ;-).
5. Come up with ideas ahead of time on how you will reward good behavior and grades. The kids will love getting involved with this one! What would they want to receive as a reward within reason? A water balloon fight for getting a B or better on a big test? A trip to the fire station for improving their behavior in a problem area? Check out this post for ideas that work great in warmer months, and stay tuned for more ideas to make rewarding your kids super fun.
6. Steps 4 and 5 should be put into a contract – one for each child. It seems a little extreme but you can make it fun. You are transferring responsibility onto their little shoulders. They can start now to take responsibility for their own actions by agreeing to make the right choices ahead of time. This contract can just be simple, and labeled “The Good Stuff” and “The Bad Stuff”, or “Rewards” and “Consequences”, with a line at the bottom for their signature. Make it colorful, fun, and THEIRS! Let your daughter decorate it with butterfly stickers, and let your son decorate with drawings of cars or robots or whatever. The important point is that they acknowledge consequences ahead of time for poor decisions and attractive rewards for great decisions. Hang each one in a frame above the hooks in the landing zone.
Make this school year different! Taking a little time and investment now will pay huge dividends when the school year starts. Talk to your kids positively about school every week until it starts. Remind them of the contract they signed by asking if they thought of any more cool rewards to add to the list. They are more likely to take ownership when they had a part in forming the agreement. Start now to reduce the overwhelm that inevitably comes when the time gets away from you and the school year is suddenly upon you. As a single mom you need all the help you can get. Taking control of your time and circumstances is an important first step to reducing your stress. You can do this, and I am praying for your strength and success! Please let me know if any of these tips helped you, and let me know if you have suggestions that would help other moms!
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