Simplify the Back-to-School Season: Use these tried-and-true tips and tricks to make the mom honor roll
As July comes to a close and the aisles begin to fill with backpacks and dorm room essentials in place of beach towels and sunscreen, it’s time to face the bittersweet truth that another summer is ending and a new school year starting. And while many of us have mastered our summer rhythms of work and camps, BBQs and pool days, the back-to-school season can leave us with whiplash if we don’t prepare.
We don’t believe in gate keeping the good stuff—so grab an iced coffee, and your planner and keep reading for our mom-vetted ways to manage the first month back without the missteps.
Say No to First Day, First Week, and First Weekend Extras
This wisdom is compliments of Jen Hatmaker –speaker, author, mom pro and realist— and her annual Back-to-School PSA. Avoid disappointment by avoiding grandiose expectations.
- Simply put, your children (and you) are exhausted from new routines and rules, and all of the moving parts.
- Whatever extra plans you can say no to and put on the back burner for a later date—do. Let them rest and let them acclimate without the stress of an already overfilled schedule.
Morning Routine Checklist
No matter the age of your children, a morning checklist is key to ensuring they are ready for the day –with all of the necessities— while you get yourself ready for the day.
- Once you have a morning routine checklist in place, you can update it and modify it the evening before at bedtime, so everyone knows what to expect in the morning.
- An while it may seem unnecessary, consider the number of years it has taken you to master your own morning routine—likely supported with reminders and alarms.
- Children are visual learners, and they THRIVE in the safety and security of structure.
- Minimize the guesswork and maximize their ability to take agency over getting-out-the-door.
- Find a free Morning Routine Checklist and pointers to get you started here: The Organized Mama.
The Drop and Unload Zone
Establish a clear space (in your mudroom, by the garage door, maximize your coat closet, etc.) that your family passes every day. Establish a zone for each family member, and three additional spaces for: Mail, School, & Returns.
- Each drop and unload zone should have space for that family member’s: bag/backpack, that day’s shoes, and their coat/jacket.
- This makes it a quick and easy process for everyone to settle into home as soon as they arrive.
- From there, kids can unload homework folders, permission slips, and things that need to be reviewed by mom and dad in the school area and mom and dad can drop mail in the appropriate bin.
Snack and Decompress
Set a specific time for your child to take a brain break from school while they enjoy a snack and tell you about their day. This small amount of time can reap huge rewards for your connection (psychologists say a 20-minute reunion is the sweet spot for fostering strong relationships) and will establish healthy routines for them in their future to separate work from home.
- Avoid the blood sugar crash and minimize frustration over the age old, “What’s for snack/dinner/lunch/etc.” question by creating a healthy snack bin and restocking it at the beginning of each week.
- This gives kids the autonomy to choose their own snack while giving you the freedom to not think about another thing or having to say no to less filling/nutritionally sound options.
- Do your best to NOT discuss homework or ‘to-do’s’ and instead focus on their day—find a great list of questions to ask here to avoid apathetic responses: 50 Questions to Ask Your Kids Instead of Asking “How Was Your Day?”
After School Responsibilities
Just like you did for their morning routine to get out the door, it’s important to communicate (with visuals) your expectations for their after-school responsibilities.
- Depending on the age of your children, these responsibilities will likely include homework, chores, preparing for practices, and an evening reset.
- Now your child can go back to the School area of the drop zone and retrieve their homework.
- When they have finished their homework, they can return it to the drop zone for you to review along with any additional forms/school paperwork that made its way home.
- Here are two great approaches for visual representations of responsibilities dependent on age rounded up by Our Sutton Place.
You likely load the dishwasher and run it, prepare coffee for the next morning, and have a specific process you go through to ‘put your day to bed’. In the same way, teaching your children how to reset (with visual reminders and organized spaces to practically follow through) for the next day will help to reduce their anxiety and help them to embody this practice into adulthood.
- Have them reset their drop zone as a load zone for the next day:
- Is their backpack prepared? Do they have an appropriate pair of shoes, coat/jacket, and outdoor accessories for tomorrow’s weather?
- Have they grabbed their folder and any school forms (after you’ve reviewed them) and put them back into their backpack? Are their school projects in their area?
- Have them refill water bottles and store them in the fridge overnight; have a drop zone/load zone for lunch bags.
- Consider planning clothing the night before, or even a week at a time to minimize morning stress. Here are some great ideas for: organizing drawers and closets, establishing daily school clothes bins before each week begins, and daily outfit organization hacks.
We’re cheering you and your children on as you embark on another school year—with the help of some intentional preparation, and systems and processes we think there will be a lot more thriving than simply surviving this year.