The summer has blown by and it’s time to go school shopping again. As you push the shopping cart and help your children pick out notebooks and folders for their new school year, think about what practices you can adopt at home to make the transition back to school more organized and stress-free. Was your child’s backpack a black hole last year? One that no school newsletter could ever survive? Were mornings hectic and fraught with debate about what was an acceptable outfit for school? Did you feel ahead of the game if everyone in the family at least got a Pop-Tart for breakfast?
We are sharing five strategies to help your household run more smoothly as your children take on more responsibility and make healthier choices, and as your overall family communication improves.
Pick Out Clothes for the Entire Week
If your children are very young, you can help build their confidence and avoid morning arguments by picking out their outfits for the week together on a Saturday. This will give you enough time to look over their schedule for the week and address any pressing laundry needs. It also gives your children an opportunity to make choices for themselves and to develop their own sense of style. For older children (especially teenagers), you may not need to be as involved in this process, but it’s still a good habit to help them form. Selecting their clothing for the week will help your teenager be more organized and get ready with less fuss in the mornings.
Skip the Post-School Junk Food
Keep a well-stocked pantry to provide your children with healthy, pre-approved snacks to hold them over until dinnertime. Keep a bowl of ready-to-eat fresh fruit like apples or bananas on the kitchen counter. Fill the pantry with granola bars, raisins, and pretzels, and have yogurt and string cheese in the fridge. All of these snacks are small enough that they won’t spoil your child’s dinner, and are healthy and easy for them to access, so you won’t even have to bother with snack preparation.
Create a Command Center
Your kitchen is the most frequently used room in your home. Create a small nook in the kitchen where kids can do homework while you prepare meals. You’ll be nearby to provide any assistance and to make sure everything gets done. Use this space to display a central calendar with everyone’s schedules for the week so that no one leaves the house missing soccer cleats or a violin. This is also a good spot for kids to leave permission slips, newsletters, tests, and anything other important school-related materials that you need to review.
Be Committed to Eating Together
During the school year, it can be hard to find time to give your child your undivided attention, and vice versa. Children have a lot of homework, even after being in school for eight hours. With that in mind, you’re probably inclined to give them a little time to decompress with some television or video games while you catch up with your own work and household duties. It’s important to still make time to share meals. According the The Family Dinner Project, “researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience.”
Sharing meals also provides you with valuable time to catch up with your family. What does their schedule look like for the week? Does your daughter really want to go to the football game on Friday? Can you get a babysitter for your younger child? This is valuable time to work out plans in advance so that you aren’t scrambling throughout the week. Be careful not to devote all of meal times to planning, though, as you’ll want to give your children a chance to talk about their lives.
Make Laundry a Family Affair
Don’t get stuck frantically digging through a pile of dirty clothes in your son’s room in search of the one green shirt that he owns and absolutely needs for Earth Day. Instead, set out laundry baskets or hampers and get your children used to bringing their clothes to the laundry room when they are dirty. You can assign each child a bin, or give them a leg-up in the responsibility department by teaching them how to sort laundry. It may take them a little while to get the hang of it, but they’ll thank you when they aren’t walking around in all purple-tinted clothes when they go to college.