Saturday, July 16, 2016

5 Sanity Saving Tips for Back to School!

I used to love that back to school Staples commercial from a few years ago that has the parents dancing and singing in the isles "It is the most wonderful time of the year".
After a summer off most of us are ready to get our kids back to school and into some sort of routine. My experience has been summer is full of extra ice-cream, later bedtimes and more playtime and fun. Structure goes right out the window. Even as a working parent my children attended summer camp which was 99% play time, which made the transition to school so much harder. Now that it is time to get organized and ready to go back to school, here are 5 tips to make it just a bit easier! These five as well as many others can be found in the book "Lose That Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom."

1. Set goals and write them down!
What is it you need to get done to get ready? School clothes shopping, doctor physicals, refills of any inhalers or medicine or perhaps filling out bus forms or permission slips?
Writing down what you need to do and the steps you need to take in order to get it done can make all of the difference between a stressed out first week of school and a calm and organized one. Set up a calendar and timeline and check off or cross out what you have completed. Believe it or not you will actually be more likely to achieve your goal when you see your self closer to it. Writing down and checking off items on your to do list helps your brain see yourself as closer to getting it all done. So get a notebook or a planner and start making your list for a smooth back to school.

2. Prioritize "Happy"
During times of change, like transitioning back to school, it is normal to feel added stress. Even positive events can increase our stress levels We have a negativity bias that becomes even more pronounced during this time. What that means is we tend to put more weight on the negative or problems in our lives than on the good or the positive events. A simple way to increase mood is to identify the things we are grateful for and identifying and savoring the good that can often be overlooked or taken for granted. A bedtime ritual I like use with my kids is called "Fill Your BAG Happy". What you do is imagine a BAG that is filled with the negative and stressors of the day and then picture yourself emptying it out to clear out all of the junk. Then you use the letters of the word BAG to refill it.

  • What is the Best part of my day?
  • What did I Accomplish?
  • What am I grateful for? 

Spend a few minutes answering those questions each day to remind yourself of all the good and the positive as you finish your day. My son in grammar school does it with me every night and my middle schooler writes it in her journal.

3. Take Care of YOU
As moms and dads we often are so focused on our children's needs that we put ourselves last. Make more time for yourself and your spouse. Let go of the guilt and recognize that you need to put your oxygen mask on first in order to best take care of your children. Practicing self-care and self-compassion is not selfish, it is crucial to your well-being and your children's well-being. If that means going to yoga or to the movies or spending a half an hour extra to read a magazine or a book, do it. You do not need to sacrifice your happiness to be a good mom, in fact the happier you are the better you can be for your children! You want to set an example for your children that self-care is important.  You may want to go to the gym, read a book, go for a walk, meditate, see a move or plan date night. Whatever it is that you need to do for yourself, make it happen, even if it is just a few minutes on the phone with a girlfriend. Do it. A few minutes more of Sponge Bob is well worth your peace of mind.
As a clinical therapist and life coach I often find the first thing I teach overwhelmed parents is that it is okay to take care of your needs. Mindfulness meditation practice daily has made a huge difference in my life and my ability to be a better parent to my two children.

4. Clear the clutter
When my personal space is chaotic and disorganized, I feel chaotic and disorganized. Back to school is the absolute worst. Every day it seems the kids'  backpacks come home drowning in "mommy homework." Keeping it all organized can be a difficult task. I found the best way for me was to set up systems and routines for the kids to put all the papers in a file folder so that I can sort through them as I needed. The same is true for toys and other clutter around the house. Purging the clutter and having storage and organization systems can help lessen your stress. Lot's of great ideas for storage can be found easily by checking out local dollar stores and recycling. It can be overwhelming task to take on at once, however if you tackle one area of your home at time you will be clutter free in no time. If you want some professional help I have a friend in NJ who organizes playrooms, check out The Toy Tamer for some really cool ideas.

5. Delegate
Remember it takes a village! Ask for help. Get involved in carpool or trade babysitting with other moms. Make this a team effort. Don't forget to delegate to your children too. It is amazing how much we do for our children that they can do for themselves. Toddlers can help make the bed, pick up toys or dust furniture. A kindergartener can set the table, help make food, match socks, take care of pets and sweep the floor. First graders can get themselves dressed, put dishes away, vacuum or empty the trash. Get your children involved in helping out around the house and taking care of responsibilities like preparing lunchbox for school the next day or getting backpack ready.  This not only saves you time but teaches them basic skills they will need as they get older. I can't tell you how many times I would get frustrated that my babysitter did not know to clean up after feeding my children a meal. I, now remind my oldest the importance of cleaning up when she babysits for other families.

For more tips and insights on back to school and other topics such as managing food allergies, birthday parties and dealing with head lice, check out my book "Lose That Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom."
Remember to not let "perfect" get in the way of fantastic parenting!

Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC
Maximize Wellness Counseling & Coaching LLC

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