You’d think that back to school would mean a big sigh of relief. As we’ve written before, a summer strategy is needed for those yawning weeks when the usual childcare arrangements (generally known as school) suddenly disappear and parents across the land scramble to keep the kids safe and occupied.
While it certainly solves a lot of problems to have the kids back in school, those first weeks can present their own challenges. Here’s our best advice for easing back into a new school year.
Remember that transitions are tough
As Allure magazine once wrote, “Transitions are hard, it’s why we have commas and training wheels.” Any change in the routine – even when it’s welcome – can take some time to get used to. Try for extra patience in the first few days and weeks as everyone settles in.
Invest money to save time
If your school offers a service to buy school supplies and deliver them to your child’s class, do it. If not, try to buy as much as you can online. You really don’t have to run around trying to complete the “school scavenger hunt” game. As someone once commented about her daughter’s back-to-school list: “I never did find one of the specific items she supposedly needed. Funny thing, that didn’t prevent her from matriculating.”
A new school year will likely bring some new challenges. The first week or two is going to involve some bumps, as you and your kids navigate new classes, new schedules, and new demands.
Try to avoid scheduling important things in the mornings during the first week or two, like job interviews or doctor’s appointments. Whether it’s forgotten forms, a hiccup with the aftercare program, or an unexpected schedule change, be ready to handle the inevitable bumps.
Transfer the school calendar to your calendar
Take the school calendars and put all the dates onto your personal calendar. It might not totally prevent the, “wait, is my son off today?” panic, but it does mitigate it, since you’ll be able to anticipate half days and vacations. As you get ready to restart your career, seeing the school year laid out will help you plan for job applications, interviews, and a return to the office.
Don’t forget to celebrate!
A new year is exciting. Try to plan a special dinner for the first night and give everyone the chance to talk about their first day.
Review and tweak
After the first month or so, do a review of what’s working and what’s not and make any adjustments. Do you need to think about a sitter for a few hours to ease the end-of-day crunch? Is it time to think about a meal service to make dinner a little easier? Now that everyone is in their groove, review where stress points are and figure out how you can alleviate them.
Written by Tami Forman, the founding executive director of Path Forward and a frequent speaker on issues related to caregiving and workforce participation.
This article has been updated with new information.