The back-to-school season is once again upon us! In many ways, a new school year is an exciting time for both kids and parents as it presents a fresh, new chapter waiting to be written. After what seemed like an eternal summer, the kids are finally back into a routine and order is once again established in your home. Not to mention, what parent doesn’t love scrolling through Insta, seeing the first day of school photos of their friends’ children?
As fun as a fresh start is, getting ready for a new school year can be a bit stressful, especially as it does require quite a bit of preparation by the parents. You not only have to shop for new clothes and supplies but you’ll also have to implement a new morning routine based on traffic flows and start times. On top of that, you’re a busy nurse practitioner with a practice to run where the patients are always in need of your attention.
Whether your kids have a few more weeks until school starts up, are in a year-round program or have already begun the new year, it’s not too late to start getting yourself organized for a successful school year ahead. Here are eight ways to survive the back to school season when you’re a busy NP mom or dad.
1. Get a jumpstart on all the forms
Completing all of the required paperwork and registration forms at the start of every new school year can be tedious and downright aggravating, especially when all of your information is the same as last year’s and you have multiple kids attending the same school. But putting off their completion until the very last minute can make for a real nightmare. Schedule a time on your calendar well before the first day of school to sit down either in your office or around the kitchen table to ensure that you have everything filled out and ready to be handed off to your child’s teacher. If the school will allow it, bring the required forms with you when you meet the teacher instead of turning them in on the first day, that way you can get them off your hands even faster.
2. Take an inventory of clothing before you shop
There are certain times of the year when it seems that kids outgrow nearly every article of clothing overnight and back to school is certainly one of them. However, shopping for the new school year can be all the more overwhelming when you don’t have an idea of what all you truly need. Before you set out to Old Navy or begin ordering new uniforms, go through each child’s closet in a spring-cleaning-like fashion and get rid of any and all worn and outgrown clothing and shoes. Be sure to assess socks and underwear, too. Once you’ve purged, make a list of what’s still wearable and what you’ll need to replace. Doing so will help you shop with ease while also staying within a budget.
3. Plan to be the first person ready in the morning
Getting yourself ready for the day takes an even more considerable amount of time to accomplish when you have little ones who need help brushing their hair. While your kids may have been in a summer program that required a morning routine of sorts, back-to-school brings a new kind of chaos to the start of your day. Plan to be the first person ready in the morning by waking up 15 minutes or so earlier than everyone else. Doing so will not only help you feel more prepared for your own busy day ahead but it will give you some much needed time to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or an uninterrupted shower before the madness ensues. By being ready first, you can then focus all of your attention on helping the kids get ready without the stress of still needing to get ready yourself.
4. Prepare the night before
No matter the age, one of the most exciting things about going back to school is laying out your exact outfit, right down to the socks, on the night (or even within the days) before the first day. Keep this momentum going throughout the school year not just with your kids’ clothing but with your own attire as well. Make it a nightly ritual to set out your scrubs and lab coat and the kids’ uniforms or clothing for the next day. This might present a challenge in the morning if you have preschool-aged children who love to change their minds at the last minute. If this is the case, either let them be involved in picking out their outfit the night before or set out two outfits they can choose from the morning of. This will help them feel like they’re still in charge of the decision-making process while narrowing down the possibility of a morning meltdown.
5. Establish an area for homework
Whether you have one child or four, homework at the end of a long day can be a real drag. Having a designated area of your home that’s organized and well-stocked with any supplies your child may need to complete their assignments can make the task of homework less stressful for everyone involved. Keep highlighters, scissors, glue, and extra notebook papers stocked in the homework station and set up designated bins for important school papers that need your signature, assignments that aren’t due until later in the week, and graded papers or artwork.
6. Have a designated drop station
It can also be really helpful to have a drop-station in your home that serves as a place where kids can hang their backpacks and jackets, and you can hang your own bag and keys. The area can be either in the same place as your homework station or near the door you leave out of in the mornings. Even if you don’t have room for a consolidated area that everyone can use (like a mudroom), you can still have a specific place for each family members’ things such as a corner area of a bedroom. Wherever you drop station may be, just be sure to put everything back where it belongs the night before school otherwise the purpose is defeated.
7. Use the weekends to meal plan
Although meal planning for an entire week can take quite a bit of time to do, it’s a task that pays off tremendously, especially if your evenings are jam-packed with extra-curricular activities. You don’t have to stick to a strict schedule of eating a certain meal on a specific day of week if you don’t want to; the main key is having a handful of pre-planned dinner options for the week ahead that you’ll stock up for in advance so that when dinnertime approaches, the decision-making process is simplified and you don’t have to make a last minute trip to the grocery store after a long day. If your kids take their own lunches to school, at the very least, it’s helpful to plan their lunches for the week ahead and prepare them in advance, either over the weekend or the night before. Don’t forget to plan for breakfast and stock up on after-school snacks too!
8. Use a shared family calendar
Even if you have only a small family of three, keeping a shared family calendar can be a lifesaver when it comes to managing your time, your expectations and staying on top of your to-do’s. There are a plethora of family calendar apps that can be used easily by both parents on their smartphones. If your kids are older, you can help them get in the habit of keeping a schedule with a physical calendar or planner of their own; then you can transpose their entries onto your own calendar.
Back to school is certainly a highly anticipated time filled with a lot of excitement but it also brings on a lot of anxieties for both parents and kids. By being as organized as you can be in advance of the first day, you’ll ensure a smooth transition for the whole family. Make these tips part of your weekly habits to stay on top of your game as a busy nurse practitioner mom or dad.