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Back-to-School Tips for Parents

colored pencils and a pencil shaving with heart 

We know how hard it can be to slip from summertime ease into the rigor and schedule-driven months of September and October. Some parents are naturals at it—they’ve got meal plans on the Google calendar, the school lunch accounts are already boosted, and everyone has clean underwear, shoes without holes, and knows their teachers’ names. 

And then there are the rest of us. You know who you are. You’ve got five years’ worth of school calendars stuck on the fridge. You missed the back-to-school barbecue due to a last-minute camping trip. Lunch money? Let’s check the couch cushions for nickels and dimes.

Even though if you do survive the first week of school, there are another 35 to go.

If you’re like millions of parents, you could use a few real-life tips about how to get (and stay) organized so that the family doesn’t devolve into a constantly stressed sea of last-minute homework emergencies, late arrivals, drop-off snafus, and pitiful breakfasts. Try some of these.

  • Create your own stash of school supplies. It’s inevitable—the night before a huge project is due, the glue stick is nowhere to be found. Not a problem if Past You was smart enough to hide your own shoebox full of pens, pencils, markers, tape, colored pencils, and, ah-ha—a glue stick! Of course, the caveat is, whoever borrows an item has to return it the same night. You can even apply a quarter late fee, if your kids need some financial incentive.
  • Welcome to the cereal bar. Of course, we all want our kids to eat a healthy breakfast before they head off into the world of academia, but most school mornings aren’t conducive to cooking. An easy and healthy fix is to maintain a selection of non-sugary cereals that kids can prepare themselves. Cut up some fruit the night before and voila—breakfast is accessible (if not quite served).
  • Clothing out before clothing in. Are your kids clamoring for new school clothes even as their drawers are stuck open with all those old new school clothes? Give them a garbage bag and let them know they’ve got to fill it with donations before they buy anything new. Also, teach them how to do their own laundry as soon as they can reach the washing machine buttons.
  • Keep a container of cut-up veggies in the fridge. Your kids are going to be starving when they get home from school, and they’re going to first reach for the easy-access foods like cookies and chips. If veggies are already prepped, it’s pretty easy to slip a bowl into their hands without them even noticing.
  • Join the PTA or other parents’ school group. This is the single best way to improve your knowledge of upcoming school events! You won’t have to rely on papers swimming in the bottom of backpacks or emails lying stagnant in your spam folder. Head to a meeting (even if you get there late!) and pull up your calendar on your phone. Three months in the future, you’ll thank your past self when you know exactly what day your child needs to wear their pajamas in a show of school spirit.
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