Leaving the carefree poolside in exchange for the back-to-school and work routine when the weather is still hot and steamy is an annual drag for both single parents and children alike come fall. Insomnia typically sets in the night before the new school year and tempers flare in the a.m. while the entire family readjusts to the morning rush. Since the summer to fall transition is such an abrupt adjustment, rethink the fall routine and manage the changes more smoothly by easing into fall this year. Set aside the organizational guides until after Labor Day and hang onto summer as long as possible with some simple strategies that will help you and your children beat the back-to-school blues.
Start with a monthly calendar. Place a desk-sized calendar with big squares in an area the entire family can see at a glance. Have children write down important school dates and extracurricular commitments on the family calendar. Plug those dates into your smart phone calendar or personal planner and double check for overlap with your own activities and commitments. Simplify your fall schedule by planning a manageable amount of weekly activities per child, keeping in mind the realities of single parenting and the fact that you just cannot do everything. This may mean cutting back on quantity in order to create more quality time in the back-to-school schedule.
Establish a new weekly routine. Streamline the fall routine by establishing different days of the week for certain tasks and activities. Building daily and weekly habits into the new plan is a time saver since you will be less likely to procrastinate by mulling over choices. For example, if you tend to put off grocery shopping, commit to planning your meals on Tuesdays when the weekly ads arrive and shop for groceries on Wednesdays when some stores offer double ads or mid-week bargains. Be as consistent as possible since this will enable the whole family to move quickly into the new routine and everyone will know what to expect, creating an important sense of security for single parent kids.
Make things easier on yourself. In the first few weeks of the fall schedule, ease back into the grove with paper plates, rotisserie chicken, packaged salads, and protein lunch kits. Set up a continental style breakfast bar next to the kitchen table with mini cereal boxes, oatmeal packages, peanut butter cups, and fruit so the kids can help themselves in the morning rather than rely on you to be a short order cook. After dinner, have each child make his or her own balanced lunch, including a portion of protein, fruit, and veggie. Let the dishes and laundry pile up so you can do a big batch at once and create more time for signing permission slips, helping with homework, and getting to bed earlier.
Declutter quickly with shortcuts. While most fall organizational guides will suggest cleaning closets and setting up household command centers, you can take a detour by decluttering and discarding in a matter of hours rather than days. Carve out two hours the weekend or day before school starts for you and the kids to throw out old papers, organize each room, and put the house in order. In the following weeks, set a timer for 15 minutes a day to declutter one area of the house at a time. Motivate yourself with an inexpensive reward like a latte or bubble bath—and see how much more quickly you will finish your chores. Likewise, new back-to-school clothing can be an incentive for kids to clean out their closets.
Celebrate the last fruits of summer. Transition from summer to fall by leaving margin room for fun. Incorporate outdoor activities into the daily grind that will allow you and your children to hang onto summer a little longer. Before putting away the grill, plan hamburger and hot dog dinners on the patio and s’mores in the evening. Lift everyone’s spirits once the homework is done by playing card games after dinner, having a water gun fight, blowing bubbles, stargazing in the backyard, or coloring with those bright new markers from the school supply stash. Soon enough, pumpkin lattes, autumn décor, and apple picking will entice everyone into the splendors of fall, and you and the kids will be ready since you seized every moment of summer.