Are you starting to think about school starting? Even though we have about a month before schools start throughout much of the country, I cringe as I write this article because it seems like summer just started. AND then there are some parents who secretly (or not so secretly) can’t wait for school to start!
To help prepare, I had a chat with one of our favorite organized women, Lane Jordan. She’s a professional life coach, national speaker and the author of many books. Among them are 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Womanand 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Mom. Recently, she helped us prepare for our summer with 9 Quick Summer Planning Tips. She’s also given us insight on such useful topics as 7 Simple Spring Cleaning Tips and 6.5 Ways to Simplify Cooking for Your Family. All that to say: she’s very qualified to help with this topic and she has some very practical, fun ideas!
1) Get excited
John Maxwell said, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” Sometimes kids need to hear and feel their parents getting excited about school. Lane says, “It all starts with your attitude and getting them ready to go. Get excited and do a countdown with them: school starts in 3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week.” If kids are nervous or not looking forward to school, this gives them time to mentally prepare and talk to you about how they’re feeling.
2) Plan a party
To help them get excited, throw a party! Your kids won’t have seen most of their school friends in 3 months, so invite some of them over. Lane suggests, “It doesn’t have to be extravagant - let your kids invite a few friends over for a slumber party, plan a picnic or go to a park for a few hours. The important thing is getting the kids together before the first day of school. This gives them a leg up on building their school relationships for the next year.”
3) Buy supplies
According to NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey, families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics (that's down from $688.62 last year). Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion. That’s quite a chunk of change!
Lane suggests planning a date on the calendar to go buy supplies. She says, “Give them a budget and let your kids choose where they want to go and what they want to buy - make it an outing!”
For middle school kids or kids who will have a locker for the first time, Lane adds, “If you can afford it, buy them ANYTHING they want, within reason. Lockers are like a nest or a home away from home for your kids. Having some items they love gives them a comfort level in their new surroundings.”
First, Lane recommends 2 closet cleansings each year. She says, “It should be your child’s responsibility to sift through their belongings and clean them out. This teaches personal responsibility and good stewardship over what they’ve been given. They should do it all: clean it out, pack it up, get it to the garage (to be passed on to the next owner through Goodwill or some other charity), vacuum and wipe down their closet. Don’t forget those 12 book bags that are stacking up, too. There are less fortunate kids that need these items for the start of their school year, so do it about a month before school starts. All that stuff isn’t doing anyone any good sitting in a closet for another 6 months!”
Now that they’ve gotten rid of the items that don’t fit, they don’t wear or are just worn out, they can prepare a list of items they “need” and items they “want” in 2 columns on a sheet of paper. At this point, Lane instructs, “We are strategic – we sit down and discuss the list ahead of time before we go shopping.” Seems like this would cut down on the in-store arguing and tantrums. Lane adds, “I always told my kids, ‘I’ll buy the basics and ONE special thing you really want - the expensive tennis shoes, jeans or leather jacket - but you’ll buy the special stuff.’ I start reminding them 30 days out: ‘You have 30 days to save for any special back to school clothes you want.’”
4) Make one-on-one time
Your kids are about to become very busy, so Lane suggests, “Plan a special one-on-one with each of your kids before the school year starts. Again, it doesn’t need to be anything extravagant – could be ice skating, a trip for ice cream, a camping trip, a little outing or just watching a movie or baking something together. I always explained it this way to my kids, ‘Your dad and I work at our jobs, but your work is going to school. So, we’re going to plan a special outing before you go back.’”
5) Plan a school tour
Lane remembers, “Back in the day, we always did a tour of the school. Now, it’s not as common, but I think it’s really important! It gives your kids the ability to learn bus schedules, location of classrooms, lockers, bathrooms, the path from the bus to their locker to their first class. It’s another touch point to give your kids more of a comfort level with their first day back. This is especially good for middle school and high school kids or if it’s a new school.”
Lane adds a special note to helicopter parents: “Only go to the school WHEN YOU’RE INVITED. Teachers and administrators are busy preparing a successful year for your kids, so don’t visit when you haven’t been asked and don’t wear out your welcome. But, don’t miss the opportunity when asked.”
6) Calm and support
All kids are different. Some have anxiety about their first day back to school and other kids are so excited they can’t sleep the night before. Lane says, “Support each of your children in whatever way they need and want. If they want to ride the bus, let them. If they want you to drive them, do it. I remember the time my daughter wanted to wear a fleece jacket her first day in middle school in a new city – it was Dallas and it was 90 degrees that day. I didn’t care – I said, ‘If you want to wear it and it makes you feel more comfortable with your day ahead, you go ahead and wear it!’”
She adds, “Think about other things that comfort your kids. Maybe it’s making a homemade lunch with their favorite foods to help them through the day. Maybe they want you to come and have lunch with them (see note above on invitations and helicopter parenting). The important thing is to find out what it is and do it! As parents, we’re the security blanket and we need to listen to what they want and do what they need.”
7) Get involved
It’s important to find ways to get involved that fit into your life and work for your child. Most schools have many volunteer opportunities - even work-outside-the-home moms can find something that isn’t too time consuming.
Lane says, “You have to test the waters to see what’s right for your kids – and this test happens constantly because your kids are changing constantly. There’s a very fine line between being an active, involved parent and being an over-bearing, helicopter parent. Pay attention to your child’s personality. If they don’t need or want you in the classroom, volunteer in the library. The important thing about volunteering at the school is that it gives you the chance to see how the teachers interact with the kids, what the food in the cafeteria is like, how bullying is handled, and what disciplinary action looks like. You’re able to get to know the teachers, other parents and be informed about the goings on at your kids’ school, in general.”
It’s a new world! There are many other activities tugging at your kids’ attention today - from sports to other extracurricular endeavors to technology. Lane remembers, “When my kids came in from school, I was home and met them at the door – we would sit down for a snack and a chat. It didn’t matter how busy I was - I got off the telephone, I got off the computer, I dropped MY life when they walked in that door. I realized that once they started school, there were only four times in a day when I could connect with them – in the morning when everyone’s busy trying to get out the door, when they come home from school, at dinner, and at bedtime. If they’re playing a sport or other after school activity, some parents might not see their kids until bedtime.” While you may not be able to meet them at the door, be mindful about establishing time to connect with your kids based on your own work schedule and their schedule. Your kids are leaving your home when they turn 18, so it’s really important to make the time now!
Speaking of technology, back to school is a great time to discuss and determine your family’s plan for social media. Have you had a chance to read our latest post 6 Ways to Manage Your Kids & Social Media?
Now, it’s your turn to give your thoughts! Comment below with some tips you’d give other parents for prepping your kids to return to school….