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9 tips for juggling back-to-school season
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“It’s almost back-to-school time!” Words that simultaneously relieve and strike fear into the heart of working parents everywhere.
Juggling the busy back-to-school season is a real challenge for any parent or guardian, but especially for those who work full-time or multiple jobs. How can you possibly do everything that has to be done when there doesn’t seem to be any time to do it?
Don’t worry; it is possible to successfully navigate this hectic period. However, it does require a bit of planning and organization. Luckily, this is the perfect time of year to put those plans into action. And to get you started, we have some tips to help you manage one of the busiest times of the year.
Plan ahead—Start prepping for the return to school in advance. Mark important dates (e.g., registration deadlines, orientation sessions, school shopping) on your calendar. Create a to-do list of tasks you need to complete before the school year starts.
Establish a routine—A few weeks before school starts, create a daily routine for you and your family that includes consistent bedtime and wake-up schedules, and regular times for meals, homework and extracurricular activities. Getting comfortable with a predictable routine can help reduce stress and set expectations.
Use your support networks—Reach out to and mobilize family, friends or neighbors who can help with pickups, drop-offs or childcare when needed. Consider sharing transportation responsibilities by carpooling with other parents. If available, check out before- or after-school programs offered by your school district or other community organizations.
Divide responsibilities—Communication and teamwork are essential for managing a busy schedule. If you have a co-parent or partner, split up tasks like shopping for school supplies, packing lunches or attending parent-teacher meetings to ensure both halves of the team are involved and contributing. If you’re a single parent, don’t be afraid to check with your support network to see if someone can help you out.
Communicate with your employer—Discuss your situation with your employer. Inform them about important school events or schedule conflicts that may happen during the back-to-school season. If possible, explore flexible work options, like adjusting your work hours or working remotely when appropriate.
Prepare meals in advance—During the last month of summer, take a weekend or two to prepare some freezer-friendly meals so you’ll have nutritious meals ready to go during the first weeks of the new school year. Once school starts, save time on busy weekdays by meal prepping on the weekends. Plan and prepare lunches and dinners in advance. Take advantage of your slow cooker and/or electric pressure cooker to minimize the time you spend in the kitchen, which will allow you to focus on other tasks.
Stay organized—Use calendars, planners or smartphone apps to keep track of appointments, deadlines and extracurricular activities. Create a designated space at home for school-related paperwork like permission slips, newsletters and event notices. Establish a system for organizing important documents to help you stay on top of things—and don’t make the system overly complicated. A simple, inexpensive accordion file folder is easy to use and maintain.
Prioritize and delegate—Decide on your priorities and focus on the essential tasks. Delegate tasks that can be handled by others—such as older children taking responsibility for their own school-related obligations or household chores. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good; be realistic about what you can accomplish and learn to let go of perfection.
Take care of yourself—When you’re in the midst of chaos, it’s important to prioritize self-care. Be sure to allocate and reserve time for relaxation, exercise and quality time with your family. Remember, taking care of yourself will allow you to be more present—and more effective—when managing the busy back-to-school season.
Given how busy our lives are this time of year, you may still feel overwhelmed on occasion. But by planning ahead, actively seeking support, staying organized and retaining a bit of willingness to go with the flow, you can reduce your stress and successfully juggle the busy back-to-school season.