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4 Ways You're Doing Back-to-School Wrong

Photograph by Twenty20

Nothing brings the blissful days of summer to a grinding halt faster than the email assaults that occur just before a new school year begins. From missing forms to registration to school supply lists, the back-to-school to-do list feels never-ending.

I prefer to pretend it's not happening and wait until the last possible moment to slip into back-to-school mode. But, according to my Facebook feed, the stress level is high. Apparently, it's very difficult to find the exact erasers listed on the supply list, and some pencils are overpriced.

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Last year, my daughter's school supply list called for a "pen drive" to use in the computer lab. I searched high and low for such an item and almost bought one of the many alternatives available all over town before I found the pen drive online. Throughout the exhaustive search, I couldn't help but think that other moms couldn't possibly be searching this hard for the same item. Sure enough, when the first day of school rolled around, my daughter was the only one with the pen drive in question.

I couldn't believe the time I wasted when one of the alternatives sufficed.

I get it about the white erasers. You want to get what they ask for, but sometimes the energy you put into finding exactly the right thing just isn't worth the side of stress that comes with it.

Back-to-school can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Kids tend to worry about new teachers, making new friends, homework and getting back into school mode. Parents worry about juggling everything, being prepared, starting over (again) and making sure their kids get off to a great start.

Planning your time carefully can reduce your stress.

The problem is that stress trickles down and can be contagious. When one family member is under stress, others pick up on it. Before you know it, the tears are flowing and the meltdowns are under way.

Back-to-school doesn't have to be blanketed in stress and anxiety. It is possible to dial back the stress, enjoy the last fleeting moments of summer and arrive completely prepared when the first bell rings. But not if you're ignoring these four things:

1. Talking

Many young children tend to stuff their worries about the new school year in favor of playing the days away. That is, until those very big feelings come bubbling to the surface.

Give your kids the opportunity to work through their feelings about the upcoming school year by checking in frequently. Make sure your kids know it's perfectly normal to feel scared or worried and that talking about their worries will help.

Parents often try to gloss over worries, instead focusing on the potential excitement of a new year. While it's great to focus on the positive, kids do need to work through their emotions before they show up for the first day of school.

2. Bedtime schedule

Long summer days can lead to a pattern of later bedtimes. While this might be fun in the moment, it can lead to sleep deprivation over time. Sleep deprivation results in fatigue, inattention and anxious feelings. Revisit your sleep schedule (for your kids and for you) two weeks before school starts.

Push back the bedtime and get back to your school year routine to help your kids settle into good sleep habits before school begins.

Resist the urge to pack your schedule during the first month of school.

3. Stress

I learned the hard way that school supplies aren't worth increasing stress for the whole family. I also learned that shopping locally is the way to go. Chances are the stores in your area carry the school supplies you need or can order the specific requests on your list. If they don't? Don't stress the small stuff. Do your best and ask the teacher about suitable alternatives during the first week of school.

Make sure you budget time to fill out necessary forms, run necessary errands and gather all of necessary supplies to be prepared on the first day. It sounds simple enough, but time slips away when you have a long to-do list. Planning your time carefully can reduce your stress.

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4. Playtime

Resist the urge to pack your schedule during the first month of school. Kids need time to adjust to the new (old) routine and adapt to their new learning environments. Over-scheduling places unnecessary stress on the whole family.

Slow down and make room for free play while your kids adjust to school (and throughout the school year). Sometimes the best after-school schedule is no schedule at all.

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