Surviving the back to school rush

There is nothing like a long Back to School ‘To Do’ list for bringing you down to earth after a relaxing summer holiday. Clunk!

But is it just me or is the back to school prep starting earlier and earlier?  (I’m sure those discount emails for new school uniform started arriving at the beginning of June this year!) This summer I teamed up with children’s haircare brand Vosene Kids to find out exactly how many hours parents are spending on back to school preparations.back to school

It turns out that UK parents spend a staggering 10 days preparing for a new school year – that’s 10 days of shopping for school shoes and book bags, sewing name labels into uniform (in the vain hope that new jumper might get returned when it’s abandoned in the school field….), arranging back to school haircuts and those expensive trips to the stationer’s for a new pencil case, pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers, glue stick and a maths kit that will never get used.

And the work doesn’t stop once the children are back at school. Parents estimate they spend 2 hours 53 minutes every day on home-related tasks (that’s 14 hours per week!) with most parents completing 10 jobs before they even leave the house in the mornings!

The problem is, all that juggling can lead to seriously frazzled parents. And I can’t help wondering if we are simply trying to do too much?

Over half the parents (53%) in the Vosene Kids survey said they find the back to school period stressful. Some parents admitted that they find it more stressful than a job interview (8%), moving house (6%) and planning their wedding day (5%) – that’s a serious amount of stress! Surely that can’t be good for us (or our children)?

So, if that back to school ‘To Do’ List has been getting on top of you and you’ve found yourself in a not-enough-hours-in-the-day panic, here are a few reminders to help restore sanity during the back to school period and beyond.

Don’t battle the mornings

Battling in the morning is a lose-lose situation. You’ll only get stressed and end up yelling. When time is short you are much better using motivation – ten minutes of play time if they are dressed on time, a trip to the park on the way back from school, or stars or stickers collected for good behaviour and rewarded with something nice. Rewards don’t have to cost a lot – write them a ‘mummy cheque’ for an extra story that they can cash in at the weekend.

Teach your kids to do it for themselves

Whether it’s making their beds, preparing lunch boxes or washing their own hair, if they are doing it for themselves that will be one less thing for you to do. Invest some time during the back to school run-up in teaching kids to be independent. Get little ones to practise putting on their new uniform (they will need to do that after PE). Use a marker pen to put a big red spot on the inside of pull-up trousers and skirts to help them learn front from back.

Skills swap

If it’s something the kids can’t do for themselves (or they are just too little), be creative. Who else in your network of friends and family can help in exchange for doing something else? Could you swap a trip to the park with an extra child for help sewing name labels into school uniform from someone who actually likes sewing? If baking cupcakes is something you enjoy, that’s great currency to leverage some school pickups out of a non-baking parent!

Dirty kids are happy kids

Don’t stress childhood mess – getting grubby in the playground is great for children’s development. If they are dirty, it’s because they have been interacting interestingly with their environment (i.e. doing exactly what children should do). Leave them to it. Then dunk them in the bath at the end of the day.

Less is more

Buy non-iron school shirts (newbies take note!). Pyjamas do not have to be washed every day (seriously, there are parents who really do this). A PE Kit can be worn more than once. Does it smell? No? Then it’s probably wearable. Especially if they are only going to get dirty again anyway (see above).

Double up for half the effort

If you are cooking or baking, make double quantities. Then put half in the fridge or freezer for another time. Even sandwiches for lunch boxes can be made in advance and frozen! Freeze mini boxes of fruit juice to double up as ice packs.

Prioritise fun

In the frenetic back to school rush, it’s easy to lose sight of what our children really need from us. Your children would probably prefer that you juggled fewer tasks and more bouncy balls. (Or juggle lighted fire sticks in my son’s case – that would really make his day!). Be sure to slow down, have fun and laugh. A lot.

File everything

Have one place where you put everything to do with school – newsletters, contact numbers, random letters about next year’s school trip, the telephone number for the school uniform supplier for emergency PE kit orders… Knowing where you put it is the fastest way to find something when you are in a rush!

Get technical

You don’t have to be at the school gate to link up with other parents. Make the most of social media to create member-only networking groups for sharing information, arranging play dates and locating lost jumpers.

Look after yourself

You know that bit on the aeroplane when they do the emergency evacuation spiel and tell you to fit your own oxygen mask first before your child’s? There’s a reason for that. Your children rely on you being healthy and well. So invest in your own wellbeing. Whether it’s a gym session or a night out with friends, take time out regularly to de-frazzle and top up your resources. Remember, parenting is a marathon not a sprint.

These are my tips for surviving the back to school rush (you’ll find more hair care tips and tricks and back to school advice on the Vosene Kids website) –  what are your top tips?

This post was written as part of a paid collaboration with the Vosene Kids Back to School campaign. Regular readers will know that helping busy parents keep a sense of perspective about parenting is part of my core mission. See Disclosure Notice for more information on how I work with advertisers.

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