Being a parent during the work- and school-week is exhausting. Like dear lord, how can this be so hard exhausting. Everyone comes home tired and a little hangry, the kids’ backpacks are filled with forms and reminders that need to be looked at, the laundry still needs to be folded, and wait is that project due tomorrow? Then the next morning, it’s a mad dash to get ready and out the door once again.
The only way to stay sane is to develop certain strategies that help everyone stay organized and reduce the stress. As the new school year gets going, we asked our Navigators and staff for their favorite parenting strategies and tricks. Here’s what they suggest:
1. Optimize the morning schedule
Always rushing in the AM? Try waking up just 5-10 minutes earlier; you’d be surprised how much of a difference it can make. If you have multiple kids in the house, try staggering their wakeup times by 15 minutes so that not everyone is trying to use the bathroom at the same time. And “no snoozing allowed,” suggests EdNavigator’s Caroline Cahuantzi. “My mom would break out into song and dance coming into our room and would not stop until we were up and for sure out of bed. A few of her favorites were "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham and "Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas. Not sure if this strategy would work for every family but it worked for her.”
2. Have a clear home-from-school routine
What happens when the kids get home? Set up clear steps they should take, like putting away shoes and coats, emptying their backpacks, and washing their hands right away. “Having a routine for unloading backpacks as soon as kids walk in the door helps ensure papers get signed, lunch stuff gets washed, and weird things the kids brought home in their backpacks are tossed out,” notes EdNavigator co-founder Timothy Daly.
3. Ask your kids to think ahead
“As a student, I always benefitted from talking about what was coming up the next day,” says Navigator Meghan Stroh. “Just having my parents ask me what’s happening tomorrow would often help me remember something I was forgetting, like, ‘Oh shoot, I still need to print out my paper that's due tomorrow.’" “I encourage high schoolers to have a ‘date’ with themselves on Sundays and plan for the week (projects, tests, personal commitments, etc.),” adds Navigator Arlene Sanchez. “It’s a great, simple way to practice prioritization and organization.”
4. Focus on the positive
“Every day, my cousin makes her two young children tell her one thing that they are excited about for the next day,” says Master Navigator Gary Briggs. “She writes it down and puts it on their mirror before bed, and tells them that the faster they go to sleep, the quicker they can do the activity. It's a fun parenting trick, but it also gets them excited about going to school.” Navigator Ileana Ortiz’s family took a different approach: “My parents made me make my bed every morning so that when it came time for bed time that evening, I'd feel super relaxed and in a good space mentally. I still do it today.”
5. Find simple ways to reduce surprises
Surprises aren’t so stressful when you’re ready for anything. “We keep a list of our kids’ weekly school activities on our fridge,” says co-founder David Keeling. “It shows which days they have library, or gym, or art, or soccer. It makes it less likely that we’ll send them to school with the wrong shoes or without their library books.” Navigator Rameisha Johnson always keeps books around to keep her kids occupied during unexpected downtime: “They keep books with them in their backpacks and tablets stay in the armrest of the car during the day, so we’re ready to go whenever we have to wait somewhere.”