Back to School 101: A Guide to Making Parents Lives Easier

Back to school After a long summer, you might be ready for a reprieve from the pitter-patter of little feet around the house, at least during school hours. That relief is usually short-lived, unfortunately, because so much stress is associated with sending the little ones back to school. We know a little something about that stress.

When you provide the best dentistry for children, you get to know plenty of kids and their parents. You get to know what stresses parents out and how the abrupt change to a busy school schedule from a laid back summer affects the whole family.

We’re happy when our patients are happy. We take pride in our cool, comfortable, child-friendly environment. We can ease your stress when you visit our practice, and with these helpful hints, we can help ease your stress for a carefree environment once you walk out the door.

School Supplies

Long before the first school bell of the year rings, you’re probably stressed out about school supplies.

A little bit of stress regarding school supplies is almost inevitable– your child will lose that glittery non-toxic glue they wanted so badly, even though it was $3 more than the normal glue that works better, anyway. They’ll break pencils, share or waste all of their paper until they run out, forget their ruler at school (forcing you to buy another one for the night’s homework), and conveniently forget to clean up a kingdom’s worth of pencil shavings that somehow ended up in their backpacks.

Those little tragedies are avoidable. Kids are just little humans and, as humans, we lose and break things all the time. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of reality.

So it’s best to focus on the little things we can control, such as:

  • Taking Inventory – Take inventory of the school supplies your child has left over from the previous year. Even if they really want a new pair of scissors because that cute seafoam green pair is “so last year,” you’ll be able to talk them out of a new pair eventually. The less school supplies you have to buy, the better, right? Best to make use of what you’ve already paid for.
  • Stick to a List – Before you go school supply shopping, make a list. And stick to that list. It seems like common sense, but think back to last year’s shopping– it’s pretty easy to deviate from the plan when you spot something shiny, isn’t it? It gets even easier when multiple kids are pointing at every binder and folder that catches their eye. If you make a list and stick to it, you won’t have to make excuses to yourself or your kids. You made up your mind before the automatic doors slid open.
  • Don’t Go at the Last Minute – As a parent, you face two kinds of procrastination:
    • The “I can get this done at the last minute and even if I don’t get it done in time, the worst thing that happens is an annoyed teacher” kind of procrastination. No one wants to annoy their kids’ teacher, but it’s preferable to the second kind of procrastination…
    • The “if I put this off for even a second longer it will do irreversible damage to my child, my relationship with my child, my harmonious relationship with nature, my future chances of opening a cute little bakery in Maine, and possibly engulf the entire world in flames” kind of procrastination is the much worse kind of procrastination.
  • Find Deals – This is another no-brainer, but not all of the great deals happen at big box stores. Smaller stores, and even craft-supply stores, have deals all the time. Coupons can be a real lifesaver, too. Localsaver always has some great deals in the Flower Mound area.
  • Late at Night or Early Morning – If you’re really trying to beat the crowd, you can go to a 24-hour store early in the morning or late at night. It might be a struggle to get your kids to go with you, and they’re always happier when they pick their own school supplies, but you can always bribe them with snacks and/or cat videos.

Meals and Grocery Shopping

Finding time to pack and prepare good, healthy meals is another source of stress during the school year. Whether you share meal prep and grocery shopping duties with your spouse or do it all by yourself, there’s always going to be some work involved.

  • Grocery List – Try to find the healthiest version of what you know your kids will actually eat. Science says it takes eight times of trying a new food for most kids to adjust, but for picky eaters, it can be up to 52 times. You don’t have time for that when it comes to school lunches and breakfasts. Try a shopping list like this, adjusted for your kids:
    • Sliced bread (whole wheat)
    • Pitas and Tortillas (for variety)
    • Frozen chicken breast
    • Lunch meat
    • Tomatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Condiments
    • Deli cheese
    • Peanut Butter
    • Preserves or Jelly
    • Apples
    • Grapes
    • Celery
    • Baby Carrots
    • Hummus or Salad Dressing (in individual, small serving packs for convenience)
    • Cottage cheese
    • String cheese
    • Yogurt
    • Granola Bars
    • Raisins
    • Almonds
    • Pretzels

Of course, those are just suggestions, but you can put together some sweet lunches and snacks your kids won’t get tired of with that much variety. Tari Rose has some more specific suggestions here.

  • School Lunches – If your kids bring lunches to school, chances are you already know what they like, and if you’re lucky, that might include more than three options. Try alternating sandwiches with pitas and tortillas for variety. also has some great suggestions on how to make school lunches for a week from just 10 ingredients.
  • Freezer Meals – Freezer meals, either stored in bags or reusable plastic containers, are a lifesaver for busy parents. You cook big batches as you can and then save them for later. Both Happy Money Saver and Plain Chicken have some amazingly healthy (and kid friendly) suggestions, complete with shopping lists that this pediatric dentist enjoys.
  • Crockpot Meals – Crockpot (or slow cooker, if you prefer) meals are great because they let you throw everything into a magic appliance, come back later, and serve up dinner. You can also freeze the leftovers for future meals. Real Simple, Red Tricycle, and Kids Activities Blog all have healthy suggestions that most kids will tolerate, if not secretly enjoy.

Planning and Scheduling

Calendar app

As stressful as finding the perfect glitter glue and remembering which child likes their sandwiches cut diagonally can be, there’s one stress element that outclasses both of them– scheduling.

Scheduling conflicts make life so much worse. No one ever feels good when they can’t pick up the kids after track practice, or when they’re late for a dental appointment. Least of all, no one likes that mad dash in the morning when the kids are getting ready for school and the pancakes started on fire ten minutes ago.

Here are a few suggestions to lighten that burden:

  • Use Calendar Apps – Use your phone’s built-in calendar app, or use Google’s convenient calendar application. Create a shared family calendar with your spouse, and if you feel your kids are old enough to access it, share it with them too. When you use calendar app best practices, you’ll see schedule conflicts before they arise.
  • Ease in to an Earlier Alarm  – When you already get up before 6:30am, setting your alarm back another half hour seems like a monolithic task. Here’s how you can cope: each night before the start of the school year, set your alarm back another two or three minutes. It’s a gradual buildup, so that early morning shock won’t happen all at once.
  • Prepare Clothes and Supplies the Night Before – You might already be making school lunches the night before, but you can get a little extra sleep and save a little sanity by laying out your kids’ clothes the night before, too. To avoid fussy children who want to wear something different than what you planned last night, get their input, too. If your child needs to take special school supplies the next day, pack them in advance.
  • An Extra 10 Minutes – While you’re gradually setting your alarm back, you might as well give yourself 10 minutes more in the morning. 10 minutes is enough time for a quiet cup of tea, a few yoga poses, or even just a few moments of meditation or reflection.

As a parent, your life is going to be hard sometimes no matter what– but back to school time doesn’t mean your stress level has to skyrocket.

Get your school supply shopping out of the way early, find a go-to grocery list, plan some easy meals, give yourself some extra time in the morning, and nail down your schedule. With any luck, your summer smile will stick around all year long.

A Healthy Mouth is a Happy Mouth!

~Dr. Duffy

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