After more relaxed routines over the summer, many people dread the onset of the commitments and stresses that September represents. ‘Back to school’ means homework, lunch boxes, school runs and additional costs. This September, instead of tuning in to your inner Green Day and playing ‘wake me up when September ends’ on repeat, take the opportunity to establish some routines that will make juggling those commitments a little easier.
Let’s look at some of the practical measures you can take to make the move from Summer to School as seamless as possible.
1. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today
One of my top tips is to get organised now. Don’t leave it until the day before school starts until you realise that you need new uniforms, books, school bags, lunch boxes or any of the other paraphernalia that school entails. Sort this out now, so you can focus on enjoying the last of the summer holidays.
September is an expensive month for families, with activities, after school, uniforms and other costs rapidly mounting up and causing stress. Financial wellness expert Kieran Ward recommends aiming to save 15% of your salary throughout the year to cover expensive periods like September.
If you haven’t been able to squirrel away those savings for this September, aim to start a small savings plan now. And for this year, make a list of all the expenses related to the back to school period. Work out what needs to be paid now and what can be deferred or paid in installments. For example, if you can’t afford to pay your school’s voluntary contribution straight away, engage with the school to confirm when you’ll be able to make a payment. Taking control of your finances, even if they are challenging, helps to avoid financial stress building up.
3. Build exercise into your week
It can seem easier to get out and exercise during brighter summer days and for many, that’s the first thing to fall by the wayside in September. In addition to keeping us healthy and helping us live better for longer, exercise also helps us to manage stress.
This September, make a real effort to establish an exercise routine that you can maintain throughout the year. That might be as simple as making time three days a week for a brisk walk at lunch time or squeezing in an exercise session on the way home from work. It’s much more likely to happen if you plan it in advance.
4. Defeat the dreaded lunchbox
Children eat up to 1/3 of their food in school, so what goes into their school lunchboxes plays an important role in forming healthy. But finding healthy options that will be eaten can be a challenge.
As a nutritionist, I’m asked about healthy lunchbox ideas all the time from parents. Here’s what I recommend the ideal unchbox should include:
- a portion of vegetables, like carrot sticks, sugar snap peas or cucumber
- a piece of fruit
- a wholegrain sandwich / pitta / wrap with healthy protein like cheese, egg, tuna or chicken. Alternatives to sandwiches and wraps include a slice of quiche or soup or left-over dinner from the night before in a food flask.
It’s a great idea to getting your kids involved in choosing and making their lunchboxes from a young age. Challenge your kids to try something new or different every week to inject a bit of fun. That could be a new type of fruit or vegetable, a different sandwich filling or a dip.
Relieve pressure in the mornings by getting organised the night before. While preparing or clearing up from dinner, prepare the fruit, vegetables and sandwich filling so lunchboxes can be quickly assembled in the morning. And make it easier for smaller children or slower eaters by cutting food into bite-sized pieces where possible.
5. Tell the kids what’s going to happen
Going back to school, or perhaps even going for the very first time, may be even more stressful for your kids than it is for you. If they’re anxious or unhappy or overwhelmed this will feed into your own stress, so you really need t think about managing their stress levels as much as your own.
Talk to your kids about going back to school and find out if there is anything that worries them. Address these concerns and reassure them that all will be fine.
Likewise, for children who struggle with routine, or simply hate the thought of summer ending, it’s a good idea to talk about changes that will be coming in September. Drop these into conversations casually as a way of rehearsing the routine to come. And of course it doesn’t need to be negative. Try get them excited about what’s in store for them in the coming school year. The happier they are the easier it will be for everyone!