Managing Back to School Madness

Back when my first daughter was a baby and I was having a rough day, I would soothe myself with the fact that she would one day be in school and I would get a “break.” Little did I know just how fast paced life can get once that first morning bell rings. Breezy Mama turned to Davina Muse, Licensed Counselor and Training & Certification Coordinator for Simplicity Parenting for advice on managing homework, sports, after school activities and the general madness that the end of summer vacay can mean.

I’m getting scared for school to start. Here comes the homework, the sports, other after school activities and volunteering. Any advice on how to manage it all?

It is scary to face the oncoming busyness after weeks of vacation time! How to stay in charge of all these possibilities, so they don’t become overwhelming, stressful, and standing in the way of calm and connection in your family?

One thing that parents who are simplifying are finding helpful is to sit down and look at your weekly schedule as school starts. Is there a good balance between down-time, calming, soothing activities, and stimulating ones? How much additional instruction do your kids really need? What are your values as a parent that will help to guide you as you make these decisions? Are you willing to DO less and BE more?

Do you have some general tips for simplifying the hectic morning routine of even getting the kids to school on time?

Yes! Simplicity Parenting Group Leaders specialize in helping parents find their way with this!

Here are some things that have helped some families:

  • Preparation:Prepare the next day’s clothes, lunch boxes and breakfast table settings the night before.
  • Prediction: Make sure – as far as possible- that every day is the same, so your children know exactly what will happen.
  • Simplify: Reduce the number of choices your children need to make in the mornings – maybe know ahead of time what sort of breakfast you will offer each day.
  • Relaxation: Allow plenty of time: if necessary move getting up time to earlier for more relaxation. Focus on being relaxed yourself, keep breathing slowly and evenly.
  • Rhythm: This is very important. Allow space for a brief time together, over breakfast perhaps, to hold hands, or talk about the day to come, and look forward to when you will all be together again. You could consider lighting a candle to make this time more “special.”
  • Finally: there is no disgrace in being early!

I want my kids to be well rounded and am happy when they ask to do activities outside of school, but how much is too much?

As parents in this very busy world, we are developing the instincts that tells us, “This is too much”, and the courage to say to ourselves, “In our family we value calm and connection more than over-activity, so we won’t do this one this year.”

Remember you are King and Queen of your family, benevolent rulers in charge of creating the family life you believe is healthy and will help to shape your children into healthy, caring, fulfilled adults.

If I feel they need one less activity, how do I get them to give one up without breaking their hearts?

It can be very strengthening for children to learn to cope with disappointment every now and again. Keep it simple… allow your child his or her own experience of disappointment. As parents we don’t have to make a big deal about it, “This is how it is for now, honey.” Often children can relax when they sense that their parents are in charge and making wise decisions on their behalf. Long explanations about disappointment, etc. will probably not be helpful.

What is your best advice for prioritizing homework? When is the best time of day to have a child complete it?

This depends so much on the child. Generally children will be more alert for homework when they have rested, when there is an adult around for support or just presence, when there are no distractions, when they are not hungry or thirsty, and when the space/time for homework is clearly defined; and when the amount of homework is not overwhelming. If it does seem overwhelming, you can help your child learn to manage this by sitting close and looking at it together and dividing it up into 10 minute sections, with “ tea-breaks” in between. As a parent you can follow the Simplicity pattern: “ Stay close, gently insist, follow through.”

For moms (like myself) who have more than one child and activities going on for each, any advice to help them make life less stressful?

One way is to notice the most stressful activities and times, and simplify them: reduce the number of activities, introduce more time for calm and connection, for doing something simple together with plenty of time to do it – making supper together, for example. There is a great story on this – a Mom with 5 children all with different sports activities – in Kim Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting, in the “Scheduling” chapter.

Other than waking up even earlier, how can moms get a little time to themselves in the morning?

If you can create a beautiful sturdy rhythm for the morning, it could include 10 minutes for “Mom’s time.” This will depend on the age of your children. Perhaps the other parent can carry part of the time, to allow Mom morning minutes to herself? Otherwise earlier rising is the way to go!

Evenings can be stressful, too, because everyone is tired but dinner needs to be made, homework completed, the house cleaned up and everything prepared to start all over again. Any advice for taking the stress out of the evenings?

Get a slow cooker! Slow down! This can really help with the getting- dinner- ready stress. Again, having a sturdy rhythm that includes predictable moments for togetherness and peace can really help – setting the table together, holding hands around a lit candle, cleaning up together. It can really help if we value these simple activities which hold a home together, rather than seeing them as chores to be done in a rush.

Any suggestions for simplifying packing the lunch?

– Begin early to prepare your children to be able to pack their own lunches by the time they are 12 or so: have them help with this at least some nights.

– Pack lunches the night before.

– Sit down with your children and make a list of foods they like, foods that are healthy and will bring “Brain Power” (protein), then make a “menu” for each day of the week that includes a bit of each, so that it is affordable (no caviar!) and predictable what goes into the lunch box each day. This helps with shopping, too. There are some good recipe/ideas books for healthy and sustaining lunch-box menus.

Any other advice for simplifying the hectic back to school schedule?

– Some parents find a mantra is helpful to say to themselves: “There is plenty of time for everything that is important”; “my timing is elegant and perfect.”

– Focus on having everyone be relaxed, be willing to shed activities when it is clearly too much – not as a punishment, but to uphold your value that family members are relaxed and happy and able to cope with just the right amount of stimulus.

– Leave plenty of time for everything that is essential, and really focus on enjoying those things. It may be more important that your child knows how to enjoy simple chores than that he or she can play the cello well by the time he is 8.

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About Davina Muse
Davina’s experience working with families as a clinical therapist, and in private practice, has taught her the value of deep and compassionate listening, truth-telling, kindness, and a sense of humor in helping families, whatever their particular form, to grow in love, laughter, and connection. She has experience working with all families, specifically, couples work and with parents of teens. To contact Davina, click here.

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  1. good one!! i am going to print it out and post it on the fridge so it lasts longer than the first week! thanks guys!

  2. I LOVE it that families are starting to figure out that THEY can actually come first. They don’t have to let the infinite amount of activities destroy their core. Gospel truth!

    I also personally love and hate this time of year. I love summer and the easy going months, but I also love getting back to a more productive schedule.

    The one thing I really hope will help us juggle things better this year and set priorities straight is to limit TV to weekends only.

  3. Great tips, cheers from New Zealand Marie

  4. We homeschool and don’t worry about any of this. It’s not as difficult as you may think. Your schedule is your own, not up to a school calender.


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