Living: School is In, Don't Throw Your Priorities Out
Some of the best childhood memories I retrieve from time-to-time are those first days of summer. School was out, the swimming pool was open, and Mother had the screened-in porch ready for use. There was a wicker swing on that porch; it was my favorite spot for summer. Oh, the books I read and dreams I dreamed as I swayed the days away. Glorious summer!
Why are we all so glad for even the hot days of summer to arrive? There seems to be a collective exhaling as school doors close, car pools disband and a more relaxed schedule of activities begins. Our clocks lose some clout, as we don’t have to hit the floor and the roads every morning to get to school. After-school activities? Gone! No weekend ballgames, parent-teacher conferences, band practice, cheerleader practice, or any other school-related clock-driven business!
Well, all the things we celebrate about the beginning of a lazier schedule in late May are the very things that stress us in August when the school bells ring once again. Here we go: mornings are a rush of breakfast and backpacks; afternoons, a flurry of practices of some kind; and evenings are full of homework and other obligations. Days are busy from sunrise to sunset and even beyond, if your children are athletes or fans of sporting events. Once again, we run by clock-time, trying to get everything done in the mere 24 hours we’ve got in which to do it all.
What are some things you might do to de-stress the onset of school? Time management strategies, like prioritize and organize, help immensely. But first you and your spouse must sit down and talk about your goals as a family. What did you learn from the previous year about obligations you and your children committed to? Was there time for family suppers? Downtime for all family members? What was the busiest day, or days, of the week? Which activities had you muttering to yourselves “Never again?” Sift through your memories of the preceding year, and ask yourself, what are the best choices, in terms of balancing time requirements for all family members? You are prioritizing.
Then sit down with your kids, if they’re old enough to be part of the decision on how they want to spend their time. Remind them that there are five “school nights” that dictate earlier bedtimes and study time. Ask what they feel is most important to do during the school week and after-school. Share with them the decisions you, as parents, have made about how many activities and how much time you are willing to give to activities — school related or not — so they will know how to prioritize their time. It’s OK to limit their choices. Life is full of limitations; kids who recognize this and learn to deal with parameters learn important “life lessons” early.
Parents often feel guilty if they don’t let their children experience every activity in which they show interest. Again, this is a wonderful opportunity to teach them how to prioritize. All through their lives they will be confronted with choices: how to spend their time, money and energy resources. It’s good for them to learn early how to make those decisions by exploring their own priorities. Again, with smaller children, YOU decide. In my experience, younger children need at the very least one day when they get to go home and have nothing but homework to do. It’s hard to imagine that children need downtime, but they, too, require some quiet and solitude to recharge their batteries. You must make certain they have that … even if they deny it’s what they need. Remember the baby or toddler who was too tired to take a nap? Well, older children can also become “too tired” to rest.
Organizing means seeing if all the prioritizing can be arranged. With multiple children who are in activities miles apart, this is a crucial requirement. Can it be done? How? By whom? Be realistic in this part of your de-stressing plan. You might have to re-prioritize, and that’s OK. Being flexible and adaptable will always help relieve stress!
So when school bells begin to ring, sit down with commitment and purpose, and have an organizational meeting as a family. You will, as a family, provide opportunity for the kids to participate in activities important to them, and, as a family, provide the togetherness needed to protect and solidify itself so family members stay connected. Even if you’re sitting down to chicken nuggets or fish cakes, you’re sitting down together for a family meal — and that’s important.
+ Establish a routine for mornings, after school and evenings.
+ Create a carpool schedule.
+ Create a back to school planner.
+ Have a school supplies shopping list.
+ Create a lunch planner.
+ Have a schedule of all sports and school events.
+ Have a schedule of chores for each member of the household.