Moms and Dads, we made it! We beat the back-to-school craziness and successfully transitioned our little ones into a new grade (or if you are like our family, helped your little one enter school for the very first time). Emotions may have been high as children experienced big feelings. OK, let’s be real; my emotions were an utter mess those first few days. It took every ounce inside of me to hold it together and not transform into the biggest baby on the playground. I hope by now your kids are getting accustomed to the new routine. If they aren’t quite settled yet, remember to give your children grace and time as it is undoubtedly a major adjustment.
Dare I say this is the first “normal” school start we have had in 3 years? Truthfully nothing is normal with the mix of emotions and heightened anxiety surrounding it all. Here in Ontario, we have entered the school year with lifted restrictions. We have no more social distancing, no more mask mandates, and no more isolation requirements. At least this is the case for now. This blog is not to compare the pros and cons of it all. I simply want to check in and make sure you are doing ok.
As parents, we all have different perspectives on the new reality. What feels exciting and a relief to one family may be heavy to another. I put together a little list of items we can do for our family, and others in our community, as a little check-in to make sure those in our immediate circle feel supported. As you read the list below, I encourage you to adopt a few of these into your weekly routine. It doesn’t need to be the full list because I understand how busy you are. Even just checking off one or two of the items listed will go a long way.
SIX WAYS TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY IN CHECK THIS SCHOOL YEAR
1) Sleep, Sleep, Sleep. When we hear online chatter about prioritizing self-care, we often hear recommendations to take a bath or do a workout, especially when geared towards mothers. While those things may be effective, I truly believe prioritizing sleep is of the utmost importance. It is no surprise that sleep is the foundation of our mental and physical health. While we can get away with later bedtimes throughout the summer, once school begins it is an entirely different ballgame. School start time is at 8 am for us. When I first realized how early I would need to have my family ready, I almost thought it would be impossible. We must be ready and out the door by 7:40 at the latest. To prioritize sleep for the family, we moved the kids’ bedtimes up by an hour and a half once school began. For my family, this was easy to do since my children were exhausted after a long school day. If you need to ease into the new routine, feel free to move bedtime up in 15-minute increments each day until you reach your desired bedtime.
2) Meal prep. Having school lunches and family dinners prepped truly makes for a more relaxed week. Not only does this allow us to make healthier choices as the week progresses, but it alleviates the stress of having to plan meals last minute when hangry children are lurking around. I tend to chop a bunch of fruit and vegetables ahead of time and place them in sealed containers in the fridge. We are also fans of meal delivery boxes to help with the planning and grocery shopping. Time is precious and anything to save my family a few extra minutes is well worth it in my books. Another tip is to plan dinner portions to last for two nights. After all, if I am going to spend time in the kitchen you better believe it will be for more than one meal.
3) Schedule a family movie night. Weekdays are busy. By Friday my entire family is exhausted. I know if we planned anything major on a Friday evening it may backfire and result in over-stimulated, cranky children. Instead, we started a weekly movie night. We blow up the giant air mattress in our basement with a variety of cozy throws and spend quality time together. This allows us all to decompress at the end of a busy week and is a tradition I hope to keep in our family for many years to come.
4) Plan a night out sans kids! It can be with some friends, or you can call for backup and have a parent’s night out. Whatever you choose, it is so important to have time to yourself. It’s ok to have a life outside of your children and taking time to connect with your partner is a great way to check in and make sure you are both on track. Just do me a favour and try not to spend the entire evening talking about the kids ok?
5) Start a family calendar. Nothing ensures your family stays on track like a shared calendar. My family uses iCalendar and we put absolutely everything in there. If the kids have an after-school activity, it’s in there! Daddy is playing soccer Thursday night, yup I see that! I even put our dental appointments and my work events in the family calendar. My family has a rule, check the calendar before ANY plans are made.
6) Organize easy activities: I like to have a little activity ready for the kids when they get home from school, even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes to give them time to unwind and have a snack. From pulling out our dyed rice or homemade play dough, I have a full list of easy activities I rotate through. If you want some simple, quick ideas, I will link my blog here so you can be inspired. I also have copies of Popular Book Canada’s Pre-School and Kindergarten workbooks. These workbooks make activities simple. They have short grade-specific lessons to make sure your kid is on track and has fun while learning. They are developed by leading experts in the education field and can be purchased online or through local retailers like Costco. As kids work their way through these books, they will be learning patterns, solving problems, and completing activities that challenge their little minds without being overwhelming. (Disclaimer: I am a partner with Popular Books Canada, but these thoughts are my own and truly work for us!)
THREE WAYS TO CHECK IN ON YOUR NEIGHBOURS AFTER THE SCHOOL RUSH.
1) Really ask how someone is doing and how you can help. A simple ask truly goes a long way and does not go unnoticed. Be more intentional with your phrasing and go beyond the generic “how are you doing?” to encourage a deeper answer. You never know what you may uncover. “How is Justin doing entering grade 2?”, “I hear your family was sick recently. Is there anything I can do to help?”, “I saw you all walking to school, how has the transition been?”. Wording these types of questions truly opens the conversation. Because the last thing we want is the typical “I’m good” type of response.
2) Organize an after-school play date. For kids, walking into a classroom with 20-30 new faces can be intimidating. While kids are resilient and generally adapt well, how incredible would it be for them to see those familiar faces outside the school gates? Schedule a play date after the first few weeks of school since those days are already tiring, especially for little ones. After a few weeks have passed and everyone is settling into their new routines, try to arrange a little play date either in your backyard or at a nearby park. This makes for a great opportunity to check in with your parent peers.
3) Do a neighbour coffee run. Perhaps you drove through the Timmie’s drive-through right after school drop-off. If you know your neighbour friend is working from home, why not pick up an extra coffee to drop off on their doorstep? Nothing says “I’m checking to make sure you are ok” like a coffee (or tea).
4) Start a neighbour group chat: I may be calling out my neighbourhood group chat, but it is incredible. If you forgot one item at the grocery store or have used children’s clothes to pass along, a neighbour group chat is the perfect place to build connections and give back to those directly around you. This can be done in a Facebook group or a group chat. Don’t overthink it. What begins with three neighbours may end up growing to a dozen in no time.
Now that you have some ideas on how to keep your family in check this school year, and to make sure your neighbours are doing well too, I hope you can integrate one or two of these ideas into your weekly routine. After all, we want the people in our community to feel supported and to build that foundation of support that we also need in our lives.
Now for the fun part! I want to hear from you! What other ideas do you have? Share them on our Instagram pages and give me and @PupularBookCanada a follow to stay up to date with other fun ideas.