Here is a guest piece, written by clinical psychologist Shiro Torquato. You can learn more about her by visiting her page on our website.
It’s back-to-school time again. If you are like most parents you view this time of year with mixed feelings. You are sorry to see the lazy days of summer gone (with the lack of homework and school events), but glad to have the familiar routine of the school schedule back. Along with that school routine comes the crazy and often stressful morning rush. How many times have you run around the house in the morning with one of your children searching frantically for shoes, a musical instrument, sports equipment or the form that was supposed to be signed and returned that day? All the while knowing that you were getting late for work or the children late for school. When was the last time you were notified at the last minute, often as you are rushing out the door, that your child HAD TO HAVE cupcakes, a poster board or some other item that you typically don’t keep around the house THAT DAY? Or learning for the first time on a Sunday evening that a big project that was assigned two weeks ago was due the next day-and your child hadn’t even started it? How about getting blamed by your child for not putting his homework in his binder, so he got in trouble with the teacher? If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, here are a few fairly simple solutions to decrease your stress (and the volume of your voice) on those busy weekday mornings.
One great organizational trick is to have a small box or basket next to the front door labeled with each of your children’s names. The evening before, have each child take a few minutes to gather all of their belongings that are needed for the next day (including homework, books, projects, musical instruments or sports equipment) and place them in the basket. Shoes should also be kept in a central location, so they are easy to find. This strategy will decrease the familiar cry of “Where did you put my_________” when you know full well that your child left the item somewhere.
Also, if you have a child that can’t decide what she wants to wear for school and getting dressed in the morning turns into a major argument, then have her select the outfit the night before. Many retail stores, such as Target and Wal-mart sell clothes organizers that hang in the closet and are labeled with the days of the week. So, your child can select a weeks’ worth of outfits and place them on each shelf on the weekend. The end result is no more nagging to get dressed every morning or complaints that they have “nothing to wear.” If your child takes lunch to school, have him help you pack the lunch, including making a sandwich the night before and store it in the refrigerator. If your child is old enough she can pack her own lunch while you make or clean up after dinner.
In order to avoid the last minute stress attack when you learn about an item that needs to be brought to school that same day make it a practice to clean out and re-organize the backpacks, with your children, on Friday afternoon or evening. Have your child collect all of the notices received that week from his binder and give them to you to review. This will also help you keep track of long-term projects. Yes, many of us see Fridays as a day to relax and not worry about school, but the extra five minutes you take will save you time and gray hairs in the long run. Finally, have you ever gone hog-wild buying school supplies in the Fall, and then months later can’t find the glue sticks, construction paper or other items you remember buying when they are needed for a school project? Well, having a central location, such as a storage bin in the garage or a closet for all school supplies (including pencils, pens and paper) and periodically checking the inventory will save you the late night trip to the 24-hour drug store to buy these items when you child needs them.
You might be wondering, where you will find the time to have your children do these extra tasks, when every evening is so busy already. Well, 15 minutes less of watching TV, playing video/computer games or talking/texting friends each evening will give them plenty of time to get these tasks completed. It also teaches them responsibility and organizational skills that will last a lifetime. Parents of adult children will tell you that if their son or daughter didn’t learn to pick up after themselves or be responsible for their belongings they become adults who are difficult to live with for roommates and spouses. So, these early lessons will not only decrease your own stress in the morning rush, but teach your children valuable skills of organization and responsibility that they will hopefully pass on to their own children some day.