Back to School (Part 1): Start With the Basics

This week and next I’m writing a five-part series on common back-to-school stressors and what we can do to make this transition easier.

You remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from back in the day, right? If you don’t have the basics—sleep, food, breath—you can’t get much else done. So let’s start there.


If your household is anything like mine, everyone’s sleep schedule is about to get seriously adjusted—in a bad way. So we might as well start getting ready for it.

Tip #1: Start moving kids’ bedtimes back by 15 minutes or so every couple of nights until you get to their school bedtime.

If this change happens gradually over a couple of weeks now, the new schedule will be easier for them to handle once school begins.

But it’s not just the kids that might be affected from the reintroduction of the alarm clock.

Tip #2: If you regularly enjoy a later start in the summer, start waking yourself up a bit earlier these last few days of freedom.

It’s painful, I know, to wake up early for no reason. But my current 9:00 am wake-up and my soon-to-be 6:30 am wake-up are just too far apart. Without a bit of easing into that schedule, I’m sure to be a wreck once school starts.

Now, it is true that if we do nothing to prepare for the coming sleep adjustment, our bodies will figure it all out during those first few weeks. So if you can’t make these changes stick for yourself or your kids, don’t sweat it. But going through the adjustment (or at least some of it) now will help alleviate stress later.


OK, fess up. Have you been pinning photos of adorable lunches with owl sandwiches and octopus hot dogs? Do you imagine scenarios where you get up extra early to make your kids a fabulous, hot, protein-packed breakfast? If so, I hear you. We all tend to start the year with high hopes for the kind of spectacular parent we’ll be.

But the truth is that these first few weeks of school will be extra tiring for us because of all the adjustments, and the last thing we need now are even more duties that the many we already have.

Tip #3: Save the Pinterest-perfect lunches for week three.

Those cute little bunny ears can wait. In the meantime, no one will starve from eating plain ol’ peanut butter and jelly. In fact, your poor overstimulated kid might just get a little solace from eating that “boring” lunch he or she has had so many times at home.

Tip #4: Plan on serving easy breakfasts the first couple of weeks.

Apart from the standbys of toast and cereal, protein can come from yogurt. If your kids love eggs, consider scrambling a big batch on Sunday and microwaving small portions over the next couple of days rather than trying to make them fresh every morning. Even though scrambled eggs are relatively quick, they aren’t as quick as sliding a yogurt down the bar, and you’ll appreciate the time saved when everyone (including you) is still moving at slow summer speed.

Tip #5: Plan your dinners ahead for the first couple of weeks, and pick easy ones.

Even if you don’t normally plan out your dinners, make a special case for these first days of school. Knowing that you have something fairly easy to make for dinner takes care of one more item on your to do list, which you’ll be grateful for when your head is spinning.


At times all the changes that come with the back-to-school season can make us feel like we need a minute (or a month) to catch our breath.

Tip #6: Don’t plan any unnecessary activities during the first few weeks of school.

Even though it might be tempting to fill up the calendar with playdates and dinners with friends you haven’t seen all summer, try to push these dates out a few weeks. You, and especially your kids, may need the down time after school and on weekends to process all the new experiences of school.

When my oldest started kindergarten, he would spend so much energy holding it all together during the school day—learning all the new rules, meeting all the new people—that he would seriously fall apart as soon as he got in the car at the end of the day. It took me a while to figure out that this was all it was (not that he was being tortured by his gym teacher, etc.—of course I had immediately imagined the worst).

If your child ends up finding school extra stressful at first, it will be much easier for both of you to deal with if you have no other obligations later in the day. Giving your child free time after school will help him or her adjust more quickly to the new routine.

And guess what’s the biggest stress reliever of all for you as the parent? Seeing a happy child bound into your arms at the end of the school day. It might not happen on day one, but you’ll get there. I promise.

Now that you’ve read my tips for de-stressing the basics during back-to-school time, what are your thoughts? What tips do you make sure to follow this time of year? I’d love to hear them!

© Amy Daniewicz

Back to School Survival Guide
Back to School (Part 2): Plan It Out
Back to School (Part 3): Save Your Dollars
Back to School (Part 4): Get a Grip
Back to School (Part 5): The First Day

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