Transitioning out of August and into September brings thoughts of cool nights and warm, sunny days. The dog days of summer and the refrain of the song synonymous with both the winter holidays and the back to school season. But is it really the most wonderful time of the year? New clothes, books, pencils…the list is endless. In my household, the change in schedules and sleeping patterns wreaks havoc for at least a couple of weeks. And then we have the class schedule drama. Having two teens brings a certain amount of controlled chaos to your life. Especially when they have been away at a local camp for nearly all of the summer. The camp that they went to was similar to Camp North Star which they went to when they were younger and it still has the same effect on them now. They always come back hyper after these trips which is definitely not what you need when you’re preparing for them to go back to school. At least they had a good time though.
Getting your kids back-to-school ready is tough enough, but what if you, the parent, are a student too? Two years ago, I went back to school on the same day as my kids. Yes, you read that correctly. I put my free-spirited adult life on hold and went back to the classroom to study nutrition. Being a mature student was nothing like the first time around as a young adult! I could no longer afford to spend an entire night cramming or partying (we’ve all been there, don’t judge) like I had previously done. No one was there to do my laundry or cook my meals or grocery shop. I had to pull my weight at home and in the classroom as well. I had just added an extra responsibility to my list and it was not a small one. I’m not gonna lie, I had a few panic moments. Like the first day when I realized just how much older than my classmates I was. Why was I doing this again??
School was a massive undertaking, even as a part time student. If I had’ve know just how massive, I may not have actually gone through with it. I had moments of great success and some spectacular failures. Like I tell my kids, mistakes are only mistakes if you don’t learn from them. If you learn something, it’s a learning opportunity. Many parents have dreamed of going back to school but have held back because they are afraid of changes to the family dynamic. I get it. No one wants to rock the boat. Having kids can be complicated and messy at times, especially when the kids are always sick at school and make yours ill too. Why add to the stress?
Only you can decide if its worth it to go back because it really is a juggling act. And if you’re planning on hitting the books alongside your kids, you definitely need a strategy. Speaking from experience, here are some of the best tips I have for you and your fam:
Get some support
You cannot be a super student and a super parent without some assistance. Even if that means someone agrees to do the laundry or start dinner twice a week. I had to have a serious talk with my kids and partner before I began school outlining what I needed and how they could all pitch in to help. They have all held up their end of the bargain and I held up mine: kicking ass in class. Find out where you can use a helping hand and ask the best person/family member for the job. Your 8-year-old is capable of doing laundry. Trust me. More accurately, trust them!
Yep, I know. That takes precious time. But the time you will save by having an effective plan will be huge. Reap those rewards my friend! Get a good calendar. Then plan your meals, add in activities, schedule in time at the gym, date nights, and study time. Guard that plan with your life. It will keep you from over-scheduling and overcommitting your time. I know it totally sucks the spontaneity from everything but let’s face it, ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re in school and parenting.
8-10 hours is the golden rule. But seriously people, get the most that you can. Having a good night sleep can make even the most stressful days more manageable. You will avoid the afternoon lull that makes you reach for the junk food or extra coffee. You will scream at the kids less and will generally be more alert for that evening study sesh you know you’re gonna need to commit to after dinner. Plus, it could possible be the single most helpful thing you can do for your health. No kidding.
Take a walk, practice some yoga, do Crossfit, whatever. You do you, but make it consistent. Regular exercise has been touted for years as being good for stress management, reducing risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. And if you need another reason to get in some exercise, it may be the only time during the day you get to be alone!
Take a break every now and then to do something just for fun. For our family, it was Friday night board games, or a skate on the canal during the winter, or a day at the beach. Make time to put all responsibility on hold and just blow off some steam. You are far more productive when you don’t feel deprived. No FOMO for you, my friend.
So now my kids and I do homework together. We celebrate our grades together. We even pack our lunches together at night. We share a bond and closeness that is a bit different than it was before. My number one job will always be Mom. But my student status makes me a bit more relatable and human in their eyes. Overall, it has deepened our family connection.
Another huge win for the back to school parent is that your kids watch everything you do. You set a great example for them when you reach for your dreams and achieve them. They see first hand your self-discipline, sacrifice and determination. Kids learn a lot by watching and you have now given them the tools they will need next time they are faced with adversity. They also get a happy and fulfilled parent!
There is a vast difference between the parent and non-parent student. But don’t let it be a barrier to your journey. The key to success is planning and follow through. If this September, you are about to embark on a back-to-school journey as a parent, I wish you success in both areas. You’ve got this!
For more tips, tricks and family health related tidbits follow me on Instagram. And stay tuned to all the #DoTheDaniel fun that I will be up to in Ottawa with my friend and fellow contributor Hannah Rauhanen!
Peace and love,