Are you a mum who is dreading the ‘back to school’ preparation? Are you anxious about how you’re going to manage everything from breakfasts in the busy mornings to packing healthy lunch boxes and don’t even mention preparing and feeding everyone dinner every night? I bet you’d love to start term 1 all calm and confident and ‘back to school’ ready though right? I am here to tell you that it’s possible! Let me show you how in 6 easy steps….
1.Plan out the week ahead
I always encourage all of my clients to have some sort of a paper planner somewhere visible, like on the fridge or inside the pantry door. You can easily add to it, everyone in the family can quickly glance at it and see what is coming up. No need for devices or electronic gadgets. I recommend making some time each week (less than half an hour is enough) to sit with your partner (and even older children) and discuss what everyone has on for the next week so there are no surprises. This planner can be personalised to suit your family – it could be for a week, a month and could include a separate column for everyone in the family if needed.
2.Have set options for breakfast
There’s nothing worse when you’re all in a rush to get to school and work in the mornings and the kids just stand there with the fridge or pantry door open for 10 minutes asking you what is for breakfast. Before you do your grocery shop for the week ask the kids (and yourself) what you’d like for breakfasts to make sure it is all there. You might even go so far as to put a list on the fridge of breakfast options and encourage your children to make their choice from that list before they open the door. I recommend you spend some time with your children taking them through breakfast options on the holidays and even teaching them how to prepare some (or all) of it themselves.
3. Lunch boxes don’t have to be hard
Start a dialogue with your child about their lunches from the beginning eg. “what was your favourite today?”, “what didn’t you like about your sandwich today?”, “what should we pack next time”, “should we make some muffins on the weekend for next week?”. Never punish children for not eating their lunch – this only encourages them to throw it in the bin before you see it and that doesn’t solve any problems. If they were too busy playing at school they might like some time once they’re home to finish the food from their lunch box, or you could discuss easier things for them to eat with one hand. Maybe something went soggy on their sandwich and you could pack that separately for them to add right before they eat it. I suggest you spend some time investigating food that can be packed in advance – our lunch boxes are always done in the evenings so this is not something extra to do on school mornings. My last tip for lunches is to practice offering them their ‘lunch box’ food (in their lunch box bag and containers) at home in the last week or so before school goes back so they become accustomed to accessing and eating it.
4. Meal planning
So maybe there is something worse than kids not being able to decide what they want for breakfast in the mornings – you not having a clue what you’re going to prepare for dinner each evening when you’ve got hangry kids and you’re exhausted from work. So why not plan them in advance? As soon as you can get everyone in the family eating the same meals – the easiest way to make this happen successfully is to create ‘make your own’ dinners where everyone can choose what pieces of the meal to add to their own plates. Then it’s simply a matter of taking the time to sit down and list all of those meals out (the more the better as you can vary up your weekly menu) and then choosing from that list each week. When you sit to do your weekly plan, add this task to the list and simply decide what will be your dinners for the week. If you’re dead against having everything so planned, you can have you list of dinners for the week but not set out which one is for which night, but in my head the less decisions I have to make the better. I don’t mind coming home and checking the list on the fridge to see it’s roast night and knowing that everything we need will already be in the fridge because I do all my planning at once (week ahead, dinners and grocery order).
5. Deciding how many after-school activities is enough
Now this is a controversial topic and divides many parents when you ask their opinion. The first I want to say is that it very much depends on the age of the child and their individual needs. Make sure you consider the type of activity – is it highly active or more thinking and skills? The timing of the activity is also important – when does it start, how rushed would you be to get there after school pick-up, how long does it go for, how rushed would you be afterwards to get dinner ready, are all questions you need to answer before saying yes to something new. The other consideration is how your child copes with the school day itself – are they emotionally exhausted from being ‘good’ all day and listening to and following so many directions? Do they really need to be rushed somewhere else where they have to listen and follow more instructions? Some children will thrive on this, while others won’t. Some children simply need some quiet time alone or some prefer unstructured free play time at home. Be prepared to try things and evaluate whether they work for your family or not.
6. What do you want your weekends to look like?
By the time the weekend rolls around most of the family is pretty tired – it’s been a big week of school work, working for the parents and 5 nights of doing homework, dinner and putting the kids to bed. Ask yourself what you really want to do on your weekends – what do the kids want to do? Some families pick one morning or afternoon for activities (organised sports, nippers etc) and then leave the other times for quieter things such as board games, puzzles, movie afternoons. Don’t forget you’ll also have to fit washing and cleaning and general house maintenance into there somewhere. Do you also want to see friends and family and maybe get to party or two during the term? The dangerous trap we often fall into is trying to fit it all into each weekend until we burn out and then start saying “we need a weekend off” but by then we’ve committed ourselves to so much that it takes another week or two before that’s even possible.
You are in charge of your life – time to take control of it!
If you want to be able to sit back and be proud of yourself for having everything for school days under control and ready to go long before Australia Day comes around, join the growing number of mums who are saying YES to reducing their overwhelm and feeling like they’re winning more in life!
It will help you to:
- tackle the dreaded dinner-time dance with ease
- have lunch boxes sorted long before rushed school mornings
- not over-commit yourself and prevent exhaustion
You will get:
- step-by-step guides to planning your best year yet
- help to customise our guides to suit your family
- all my planners – weeks, dinners, lunch boxes etc.
- personalised help and advice from me throughout the process