When it comes to stress and peace of mind, sending your children back to school can make your life easier and also make it harder. On one hand, school provides the structure and schedule many moms are craving by the middle of August. On the other hand, it means that everything is going to be ramping up for the new school year – homework, school activities, sports, and lessons. Even work, church and community activities often jump into high gear once school begins which means that your schedule and your stress level may go crazy – unless you’re intentional about making sure they don’t.
If you’re ready to take control of your life and schedule, and create a calmer and saner school year, here are three things you need to do before your children go back to school:
Establish your priorities.
The easiest way to end up feeling completely stressed during the school year is to start the year without priorities and a plan. When that happens, you spend the next nine months reacting and putting out fires, rather than focusing on the things that are important to you and your family.
So before school begins, sit down and list your priorities for the year. If you’re married, do this with your spouse. Agree on what’s important to each of you and what you want the year to look like. Be realistic – if your children are playing soccer, you’ve started a new business, and your husband has just started working out and getting in shape, that’s it – those are your priorities for the year. Because when you add in work and the tasks of daily life, you’re out of time. You can’t do any more, and shouldn’t try to. If you take on other commitments or add more activities, you’ll find yourself feeling stressed and slightly crazy by the time the second grading period rolls around!
Learn to say “no.”
Focusing on your priorities and sticking to your plan will require you to do something many women hate to do – say “no.” And not just say it once but, more than likely, say it multiple times throughout the year. Because if you’re going to accomplish the things you really want to do and maintain your sanity, you’re going to have to say “no” to new activities and maybe even say “no more” to activities that no longer fit your schedule and priorities. And if you find yourself thinking, “If I don’t do this, no one will,” ask yourself why. Because if no one will do it, maybe it isn’t all that important. And more than likely, it’s not important enough to derail your priorities and plan in order to get it done.
Set up routines.
Based on previous school years, identify your “stress points” – the things that drive you crazy and threaten to send your blood pressure through the roof. Maybe it’s managing the “stuff” your kids leave all over the house. Maybe it’s feeding the family – shopping, cooking, packing lunches, and keeping snacks on hand. Maybe it’s dealing with laundry and making sure everyone has the clothes they need, when they need them.
Make a list, then pick your top two or three stress points and set up routines or systems for dealing with them. For example, when my kids were younger, finding their “stuff” all over the house drove me crazy. So I put plastic bins in the hall outside the bedrooms, one for each child. Whenever I came across their toys, books or clothes in places where they didn’t belong, I’d toss them in the bins. Then about once a week I’d make them empty their bins and put everything away. Just having their stuff “corralled,” rather than spread around the house, eliminated a lot of stress for me.
If cooking and keeping everyone fed causes stress for you, set up a routine that makes it easier and less stressful. For example, establish a specific time each week for menu planning and grocery shopping and for food-prep tasks such as washing and cutting up fruits and vegetables, grating cheese, organizing snacks, and packing lunches. Whatever adds stress to your life, figure out a routine that will make it less stressful.