6 Life Hacks to Help Parents Survive the School Year

Sep 26, 2017

“Parentally-Challenged.”

That’s the faux but very real condition that I’ve experienced in years past as back-to-school season nears. It causes forgetfulness, double (or even triple) booking of schedules, dinner nights that your mother would likely scold you about, annoyed child(ren), and likely a temper tantrum or near meltdown by… you.

These are just to name a few.

The condition may present itself differently based on a myriad of factors including your home life, number of children, bottles of wine, support system, number of cares able to be given at any given moment, and workload.

My symptoms usually start to occur around late July to early August on some random sunny day when I’m minding my business and happen to lay eyes on back-to-school advertisements plastered all over the façades of buildings.

A bolt of anxiety shoots up my spine causing my eyelids to droop a bit as the corners of my mouth recede to my jawbone. For the next five minutes, and anytime thereafter when I think about all that must be done for the back-to-school shenanigans, my face is an exact replica of a Chrissy Teigen meme.

Despite my condition, after 12 years of parenting through various stages of my life (i.e. college full-time, entrepreneurship, full-time employment, unemployment, single, in a relationship, etc.) it’s safe to say that life hacks for the school year have become far more consistent and reliable than life itself.

Below are a few that have helped to ease the intensity of my “Parentally-Challenged” condition, and even reduced the number of times that I stop and think, “wait, I’m really responsible for other lives and stuff? Even if I haven’t figured out my own? Forget a life hack for back-to-school I need a life hack for life!”

Life Hacks to Help Parents

  • If a higher power laughs at plans, they merely smirk at schedules. Be encouraged and then create a schedule that outlines how an ideal week in your household will run. Review and negotiate activities with your family, and then place it in a clearly visible area. For the tech-savvy family: upload the schedule into a shared calendar app like Google or Cozi so that no one misses a beat. Perhaps the most critical part of this is to be sure to schedule in your “me time” so that everyone is reminded of it, including you. Trust me, you’re ultimately teaching your child an important lesson about self-care and adulting.

  • Sign on the dotted line. One of the most powerful tools we have used, as needed, in our household are agreements (i.e. contracts). Together we outline what the expectations are of each party during the school year, rewards and consequences, and the steps for mediating a potential conflict. While it may not prevent mishaps, it does help with accountability and makes hard conversations flow a little more smoothly.

  • Don't play yourself: you're a student too. You know what grade your child is going into so take some time to research and understand their expected coursework. YouTube is your friend, and free, as is Khan Academy. If you can’t sit through a lesson on the material, how do you expect them to? Be an empowered parent by trying to be as ready as you can to support their academic flourishment. And if that’s a bit too challenging, revisit number three and try scheduling an informal meeting with your child and those in your village who are stronger in subjects that you are not.

  • When it comes to deals, timing is your friend. And coupons, but mainly timing. A fellow social media mommy (and teacher) had a great tip to offer for back-to-school clothes shopping: wait until after school starts to do it. The deals are much better. Buy a few necessities if you must, but don’t do the balk of it until the school year is in motion. Your pockets will thank you and I thank her for this hack! Also: if you’re financially strapped and your child wears uniforms, contact the school, local organizations or churches to see if any parents donated gently used items.

  • Meal prepping is your secret weapon. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it—make it all in advance. During the school year I try my hardest to reserve Sundays for meal prepping our dinners. I cook the components for all five days, store them and then heat the meals up throughout the week. This single task alone lightens my weekly load; the kids appreciate it too because it helps our evenings flow with ease and means more movie, cartoon or family time.

(And here’s an edited bonus from one of my Social Media Mommies – just for you!)

  • The gift that keeps on giving “Put together a back to school basket to give to your child at the beginning of August with grade/age appropriate items plus their favorite treats to remind them that priorities come before privileges! [Also] help them transition smoothly with flash cards to help in areas they might not be strong in; play hide and seek word/math/puzzles/facts about life/diduknow games around the house throughout the week or weekend to get their minds in gear and excited about the school year.” - @MsLatarah

It’s your turn! What are your back-to-school life hacks for parents?