As summer vacation comes to an end, for many of us, thoughts turn back towards school. Late August to early September feels as much like a beginning to me as January 1st. It’s that school year rhythm that’s embedded deep in my psyche. As I consider the new school year, I ask myself a few questions: “What worked well last year?” “What can I do to make things more manageable?”
If you want to make a new school year resolution, but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some suggestions. Remember, even adopting just one of the following will yield benefits for all. Happy New School Year!
1. Invest in a quality backpack: While it’s tempting and easy to buy a low-cost backpack featuring one of your kids’ favorite TV characters at a local big market store, spending more now for a well-made backpack will save you a nice chunk of change over the years. A friend of mine has a daughter entering the fifth grade, and she’s had the same backpack since kindergarten! It’s still in great shape — no holes or broken zippers; it’s washable, so it still looks fresh; and its classic styling has made it timeless.
2. Invest in a quality reusable lunch kit: Basically, everything noted about quality backpacks applies here. A sturdy, well-made lunch bag or box and reusable water bottle, made without bisphenol-A (BPA) or lead, will keep your child’s lunches safe over the years. There are quite a few options available that include reusable dishes, so that you and the planet can be free from endless plastic baggies. Lunchsense washable lunch boxes can be purchased alone or with a set of reusable, multi-sized, watertight containers made of food grade plastics, an ice pack and a drink bottle. The lunchbox itself becomes a placemat for your child’s meal.
3. Prepare more school lunches: Sending your kids to school with lunch from home is the best way to ensure that they have the option to eat the things you think are best for them (though, you can’t totally control lunchroom swaps.) However, in a crunch or culinary imagination slump, it’s easy to quit preparing lunch and to allow kids to buy whatever the cafeteria has cooked up. To help make preparing school lunches easier, try planning out your child’s lunch menu earlier than the night before. Schools often send home the lunch menu for the month. You can create a similar schedule of meals so that you can shop weekly based on the predetermined menu, and know in advance what you’re packing each day. Having your child help with the menu selections can help you pick meals that will actually get eaten. Also, if possible, designate a space in your pantry and fridge as the “school shelves,” so that the family will know not to eat certain items, frustrating your school lunch and snack plans.
4. Simplify your schedules: Soccer, swim team, gymnastics, dance lessons, book clubs, community theater, birthday parties, playdates… getting overscheduled is so easy to do! Determine your priorities for the year, and honor them. Isn’t having a family life that is sane and cohesive more important than having a child trying to excel at everything? Once you get a grasp on what the school workload is, try to limit extra-curriculars to what brings your child pleasure and growth, but minimal stress. Down time is vital to health and growth.
5. Have a consistent bedtime: Kids need to get enough sleep at night, and parents need time to unwind. Figure out what time your kids need to be in bed each night, then schedule enough time for the evening wind down — clean up, baths, book reading — in order to have lights out by bedtime
6. Prepare a nutritious breakfast: We all know that a good breakfast supports a successful day for both kids and adults, yet the things we often associate with breakfast are not especially nutritious: pancakes, waffles, sugary cereals. Stock your fridge and pantry with easy to prepare breakfasts — eggs, whole-grain cold and hot cereals, quality bread, low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, nut butters – to make breakfast energizing, healthy and no fuss. Also, remember that breakfast does not equal sweet. Consider including savory options such as warmed up beans and brown rice or hummus with whole-grain pita on your breakfast menu.
7. Donate outgrown clothes: Kids grow and grow and grow, making some new school clothes obsolete before they’ve been thoroughly broken in. Do yourself a favor and immediately donate outgrown clothes to a thrift store or pass them on to someone who can use them instead of cluttering up your home with them. They will be a treasure to someone and you’ll enjoy not having overstuffed drawers and closets full of clothes no one in your home can wear.
8. Recycle paper: The volumes of paper that kids bring home from school astonishes me. Newsletters, fundraising material, spelling lists and tests, homework assignments, flyers, doodles. While some of this material — certain lessons and art projects — are keepers — a lot of it is not. You know it’s coming, so be prepared. Make it easy to dump unnecessary papers in a recycling bin or bag in your home, reducing both clutter and landfill trash.
9. Give yourself enough time in the morning: Being rushed is anxiety-inducing, stirs up anger and is, overall, a lousy feeling. If you have found your family consistently experiencing the morning rush, it probably means you or certain members need to get up earlier than is customary. Sometimes a simple extra fifteen minutes is all it takes to make getting to the bus stop, make sure everything’s in the backpack, and have time for good-bye kisses the new normal.
10. Bless your life: In all of the hustle and bustle of having school-aged children, it’s easy to develop the habit of complaining or operating out of a low-grade negativity. A definition of “to curse” is “to speak evil of.” Instead, bless yourself, your family, your life. These years are a passing season, and while it’s not all bliss, give your family the gift of being grateful for the good, the love, the health, the joy, the humor and the blessedness of the day.
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