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Making the best of back-to-school mayhem

There are so many things to look forward to come September. Here in the east, I look forward to cooler weather and the leaves starting to change color, as well as Labor Day festivities and the start of football season! Let's not forget that for those of us with kids, it's back-to-school time! And back-to-school means back to all the stress that comes with it - overseeing homework, packing school lunches, shuffling the kids back-and-forth to their activities and buying snacks for the weekend soccer game (since, of course, I'm the official "snack parent"). Need I say more?

Although it's an exciting time to start the kids off on a new chapter in their lives filled with endless possibilities, it can be extremely overwhelming. Here are a few things to help minimize the stress at the beginning of each school year:

  • School lunches
    My kids will not eat the lunches they can buy at school (sigh). So, for those of us packing daily school lunches, here's my suggestion: Make it fun! I make up a "menu" as if my kids are in a restaurant, with a "snack" section, a "main course" and a "dessert" (mostly comprised of fruit...but the kids don't note the difference when picking their choices). I put check boxes by the choices and have the kids make their selections. I usually do a weekly "menu" so I can be prepared for the entire upcoming week. As the weeks go on, the kids will end up making the menu (not yours truly!) and place it on a bulletin board in the kitchen. That way, if they come back to complain about their lunch - which sometimes happens - I can remind them it was their choice!
  • Getting out the door
    No matter what time I wake up, I still find myself scrambling to get the kids out of the door on time each morning. So, my advice? Pack the backpacks the night before! That way homework and musical instruments make it to school and there's no last minute ransacking the house looking for that misplaced library book! I leave the drinks and lunches in the fridge, of course, knowing they're the only things that need to be popped into the bags in the morning. Packing ahead always means less stress in the morning and we all walk out the door knowing that nothing was left behind.
  • Paperwork
    I don't know about you, but for a school district that's trying to cut down on waste and paper, I have so many forms to fill out come September: from teachers giving us surveys about our kids, to the PTA asking for all the details on volunteering, to - lest I forget - the lengthy medical forms that I'm always updating each school year. My trick for making this process as streamlined as possible? Make copies of the paperwork from the year before and basically fill out the same details, adding updates where I need to. I know this seems pretty straightforward, but when I forget to do it, it adds so much more time to my back-to-school routine.

I hope you find these ideas as helpful as I find them each year. Let me know what great ideas you have for keeping the mayhem of back-to-school under control in your house, too! We're all in this together and the more tips the better off we all are!

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Betsy