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Kids Going Back to School? Here’s How to Feel More Relaxed

The start of the school year doesn't have to feel frantic. These strategies can help parents feel less busy while getting more done.

Carol Yepes/ Getty Images
Carol Yepes/ Getty Images

Back-to-school season often feels stressful. The schedule can feel suddenly crammed with homework, activities, kid-shuttling, and day-to-day packing and preparation.

Yet not everyone with a full life feels starved for time. As I’ve studied the schedules of productive people — with kids! — for my books Off the Clock, and I Know How She Does It, I’ve discovered a few ways to feel more positive, and less rushed, even during September.

Map out the schedule. Uncertainty causes stress, and new schedules can create new problems. Spend some time mapping out what school weeks will look like. Who needs to be where, when? Which parent or other caregiver will cover different times? Do people need carpools, or keys, or instructions to go to a neighbor’s house? Spend a few minutes thinking about what could go wrong, and how your family would deal with those problems. Then relax. Everyone will get used to the new schedule in a few weeks. It will be fine.

Give yourself a bedtime. Sleep is the ultimate mood booster. Instead of viewing an early bedtime as no fun, view it as a treat. Going to bed early is how grown-ups sleep in.

Start mornings with me-time. Try waking up a few minutes before you have to, and ideally a few minutes before your kids. Spend this time doing something that energizes you: reading a good book, stretching, meditating or praying, even looking out the window as you savor a strong cup of coffee. If you have babies or toddlers who wake unpredictably, just do what you can. If you fill your tank at the beginning of the day, you won’t run out of gas later on.

Do less. Think back to the last school year. What were the major pain points? What could you choose to let go of? Maybe it’s an activity your kids weren’t that excited about, which you can choose not to do. Maybe it’s wardrobe battles you can choose not to fight. Maybe it’s making lunches (kids can buy lunch or make lunches themselves). Removing any major sources of stress can make all of life feel better.

Stop using the words “crazy” or “busy. Language matters. The more we describe our lives this way, the more we come to believe it. We look for evidence that supports the crazy-busy thesis, and we discount evidence that points the other way. Every life has rushed moments, and every life has calm ones. Choose to see them both.

Buy your own school supplies. You’re probably not going back to school yourself (though if you are, good for you!) but everyone can use the feeling of a fresh start from time to time. Buy a nice pen and notebook for yourself while you’re shoving folders and no. 2 pencils in your cart, and carve out some time for thinking about what you’d like to do over the next year.

Keep the summer vibe going. In many places, September weather is still quite nice. Use any open evenings or weekends to have picnics, go to the park, go hiking, go biking, or anything you would have done during the warmest months. The cold and dark won’t descend for a while. There is still time. When you choose to see that, you’ll definitely feel more relaxed about time. 

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