Caring For Our Kids

Back-to-school resolutions

Planning ahead saves headaches. photo: dogberryjr / flickr

Heading into a new school year can be exciting and invigorating, similar to the start of a new year. There is much to look forward to, hopes for what to accomplish, and a time to wipe the slate clean and start over. However, it can also be overwhelming, daunting, and laden with anxiety — and not only for our children. For me, just the thought of packing lunches again makes my stomach swirl. To balance the excitement and trepidation, I have created some back-to-school resolutions for our family. My hope is that these goals will help get our family, and maybe yours, too, off to a great start.

Make a checklist: After a few months of slow, relaxed mornings, the best way to get everyone back into a routine is to create a checklist — one for the morning and one for the evening. Determining what to put on the checklist can be a family project. This gives the children some of the power as well as making them aware of what is expected to get out the door in the morning and to bed on time in the evening. For me, one of the hardest parts of the before and after school routine is feeling like I am a drill sergeant barking orders. This is not fun for my children or me. The checklist should include the basics that need to get done — getting dressed, brushing teeth, and putting things in their backpacks, but remember it is a new year, so try to include a few things that encourage them to take more responsibility. For example, this year I am going to try to have my children help with their lunches and assist with some of the laundry.

Spice up school lunches: Part of the back-to-school routine that many parents tend to dread most is packing school lunches. It is hard to balance what you know your children are going to eat with healthful options. I know if I wait until morning, I am just throwing in things that are easy and convenient but not always the most nutritious. A key to keeping lunches interesting for those making and eating them is to mix it up and not pack the same thing everyday. Another thing we are going to try is to pack them the night before and have the kids help. I find they are much more likely to eat the food if they have prepared and packed it. Luckily, many websites offer great suggestions for school lunches. There is also a new market of hot/cold containers, bento boxes and reusable bags, which can help spice things up and keep it interesting.

Create good homework patterns: One of the biggest changes in transitioning from summer to back to school is getting into the homework routine. Establishing a regular study time from the beginning can be very helpful. Some children want to get it done early and out of the way. Others may need a snack and some down time or play time before sitting down to tackle assignments. This is our first year with two children who will have nightly homework, so we decided to set up a homework station. They picked an area in our house that was quiet, well lit, and close enough to me in case they needed help. It helps if this area is predetermined so the kids aren’t trying to undertake a frustrating homework assignment at the dinner table while you are trying to cook and set the table. To make the area more appealing, I had my children help organize it. We bought different bins and compartments to hold what they may need to complete their assignments, like sharpened pencils, erasers, crayons, and extra paper.

Whether you adopt these resolutions for your family or create your own, the best way to stick with them is to hold each other accountable. After a few weeks, check in with yourself and your family to find out what is working and what needs some fixing. Try not to slip back into bad patterns that can create frustration and undue stress. Teaching our children responsibility, eating healthfully, and establishing good study habits are life lessons, and the sooner they learn them the better off they will be.

Here’s to hoping it is a great school year for everyone in your house.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. E-mail: [email protected]