Like me, many parents are frantically preparing for the start of another school year. Mixed emotions of relief and frenzy swirl around us as we hustle to purchase uniforms, backpacks, lunch boxes, notebooks and the like. The once loose summer calendar suddenly stiffens, filling up with meet-the-teacher, carpools, sports practices and the rest and we wonder how we’ll ever make it through.
I find that starting a new school year is very much like starting a new job, or for me, starting work with a new client. It’s basic change management for the household, and the same change management tips that work in business apply here, as well. The more you experience, the more prepared you are for each iteration.
Here are some tips to help make the start of a new school year a more welcome, and less stressful one.
- Recognize all things have their season– a time to start and a time to end. The end of summer marks new beginnings, new experiences and growth. As parents, we set the tone for our children, so when we show acceptance and grace to embrace new beginnings, our kids will, too. Set the example, model the behavior you want to see, and rather than fight it, let the change wash over you. Be present in this moment, because it too is fleeting.
- Make a plan. Convene all family members together to talk about the upcoming changes. Talk openly about schedules, responsibilities and individual needs so everyone is on the same page. Invite expression of anxiety and excitement so you can manage those feelings proactively, and acknowledge progress over time.
- Leverage the team. I find kids are far more capable than most people give them credit for. I urge my daughters to do as much for themselves as they can, like packing and unpacking their backpacks and lunch boxes daily, laundering their unforms, and packing their sports bags for practices. Not only does it take a load off Mom and Dad, it allows our kids to grow in their confidence, independence and self-reliance.
- Prep a week at a time- Batch it! Rather than doing many of the same tasks daily, I’ve learned to consolidate efforts by planning a week at a time. Snacks, uniforms, vitamins- all are portioned out for the whole week on Sunday, saving precious minutes on busy mornings.
- Accept mistakes will be made. No one gets it right 100% of the time. When we take the pressure off and avoid aiming for perfection, we permit ourselves to be genuinely human. What better lesson could we teach our kids? When we miss something (and we will, or at least, I know I will), remember again that our children model our behavior, both the good and the bad, so we have to demonstrate how to accept and forgive our own errors.
- Ask for what you need. It truly takes a village, but I’ve learned about “the illusion of transparency”, whereby many people are so focused, they don’t notice the person next to them is drowning. Ask specifically for what help you need from a spouse, family member, neighbor or friend. Here is wonderful TED Talk from Heidi Grant (How to ask for help-and get a yes!) that I’ve shared with many others over the years who feel they need help, but don’t know how to get it.