Getting Organized 101
10 TIPS TO HELP KEEP PARENTS ON TRACK
By Carol Brzozowski
School is just around the corner, and — don’t tell my kids — but I am bracing myself. Trading the lazy days of summer for the chaos of the classroom is not just tough on kids. It’s a challenge for moms and dads, too.
In the past, I have underestimated how much time and mental energy it takes to manage (manage! Not helicopter parent!) my boys’ school life. Is today the day they take money for lunch in the cafeteria or pack a lunch? What’s the deadline for turning in the paperwork and money for the field trip? What time do I have to pick up my son from that after-school activity? Buy what for the science fair?!
But through the years — and now with both sons in high school — I’ve learned a few things, not only through my own experience, but from other seasoned parents who taught me the key to surviving the school years is to adhere to the adage, “work smarter, not harder.”
Here are some tips that should help you glide through the upcoming school year:
1 Organized parents are always seen with their organizers. Whether you utilize electronics or paper to organize yourself, maintain an organizer in which you keep all of your appointments and phone numbers with you at all times. Record dates as soon as you’re made aware of them. Very important phone numbers to keep: your child’s school numbers, the bus transportation phone number and the numbers of your child’s friends’ parents who might have to help you in a pinch.
2 Avoid vacations that run up into the week before school. That’s the week you want to train your children to start waking up early again and getting back into routines. It’s harder for the kids to go back to school if they are on a trip right before school starts.
3 Ask your child to brainstorm about what healthy food they’d like to bring to school for lunches. And what about breakfast? Try a few new things out before school starts.
4 Keep a day’s worth of extra school lunch money stashed in the backpack for those times when your child rushes out the door, forgetting the carefully packed lunch and/or lunch money.
5 Buy extra ice packs for lunch boxes, but give your kids the responsibility of putting the ice pack back into the freezer when they get home from school. Oh, and they should know it’s their job, not yours, to clean the lunch box each day and empty it of wrappers and food bits.
6 Make sure your child’s vaccinations and physicals are up to date. This is often required not only for school, but for participation in sports and Scouting. If you are applying for immunization exemptions, get your paperwork organized in time. And while you’re at it, try to squeeze in that dentist or orthodontist visit before the first day so they won’t have to miss school. If you’re really smart, you’ll schedule future appointments on teacher workdays now. The Broward school calendar is on the district’s website, and appointments with doctors, dentists, etc., can be scarce on those days off from school.
7 If you don’t already have one, invest in a slow cooker. One of the most challenging aspects of the school year is having nutritious, delicious meals ready by the end of the day. A slow cooker or Crock Pot is a parent’s best friend in the kitchen. It cuts down on the end-of-the-day frustration of what to do for dinner on those rush days. It’s also great for making oatmeal the night before so your family wakes up to a hot-cooked breakfast in the morning (this is especially helpful if your family is on different work/school shifts and everyone needs to help themselves.)
8 Cell phones have become a common school supply, though many schools limit their use during the school day. They are useful in keeping in touch on important matters — my sons call or text during lunch to let me know they need something for the following day or that a club meeting has been cancelled. If you’re not keen on buying them their own cell, consider a pre-paid phone. Make sure you know the carrier’s costs — my sons once racked up a few hundred dollars through unnecessary text messaging and Internet access.
9 Make a habit of organizing everything your child needs to take to school the night before (older children can and should do this on their own.)
10 If your child is going to school for the first time, plan to have your child spend a lot of “down time” after school – perhaps at the playground – to help deal with some of the transition stress he or she may feel.