14 tips to beat school run stress
When my eldest daughter first started at primary school, I was always disorganised. I would forget packed lunches, lose forms and have to leg it with the buggy to make it to school on time. But nowadays I run a much tighter ship before and after the school run, which means I feel calmer and less stressed. I also lose forms less often.
These are my tips for keeping your blood pressure on a more even keel:
After school tips
1. Get your kids to hang up their coats and bags
Ask anyone aged over three to hang their things straight away, preferably on child-level pegs. It’s good for their self-confidence, but also it’s just not your job to collect piles of clothes from the floor day after day. That way madness lies.
2. Create a home for their shoes
It doesn’t matter where it is – a plastic box, a cupboard or a spot against the wall – as long as the kids tidy their shoes away, rather than kicking them off and walking away from the mess.
3. Move lunchboxes and water bottles
Encourage your children to put their lunchboxes and water bottles by the sink to be washed, rather than letting them languish in their schoolbags, only to be discovered when you’re about to leave the next day. I speak from experience.
4. Rifle through their school bags daily
Every evening, hunt through your child’s school bag for those all-important school newsletters, parent-teacher meeting forms, field trip permission slips and party invites. Don’t leave it for days on end, and then wonder why you’re missing important events.
5. Do school admin as soon as possible
Remember the paperwork you found in the school bag? Fill in the forms and answer the invites straight away. If you stick them up on your notice board, thinking you’ll get round to them later, chances are they could end up buried by recipes and supermarket vouchers. Don’t forget to jot down the dates in your calendar.
6. Prepare tomorrow morning’s school bags
Try to prepare ahead of time what the kids need for tomorrow’s school run – from popping homework back into a school bag to putting PE kit by the front door and ironing a shirt for the next day’s school photo. (I’m still working on this one by the way.)
7. Write a quick list to beat the morning’s chaos
Every evening in bed, I quickly add a to-do list to my phone’s reminder service, for example to make packed lunches, hand in those school forms or make a doctor’s appointment. It means I fall asleep faster, as I haven’t forgotten something important. The bad news is you’ve then got to remember to check your reminders the next day.
Before school tips
1. Get up a bit earlier than the kids
This one’s a real bummer when you’re already exhausted and probably sleep-deprived. But in my house, if I wake up at the same time as the children, there isn’t enough time to get everything done calmly – or, in other words, without shouting.
2. Make every minute count
Work out when you need to leave in order to walk through the school gates feeling relaxed and calm with happy children. Then work backwards. How long does it take to cajole your brood to eat breakfast, brush teeth or get dressed? Be firm and stick to your time slots.
3. ‘No breakfast till you’re dressed on school days.’
My kids weren’t keen on this one so I tried letting them get dressed in the kitchen after breakfast, but there was too much larking around. So now there’s a strict rule in place, courtesy of a wise friend, that the eldest two get dressed in their bedrooms. (The toddler is such a messy eater that he doesn’t count.)
4. You may not be able to sit down
It would be lovely if I could sit at the table with the kids to eat breakfast, but there’s just no time on school days. Instead, try eating standing up, while making packed lunches/ buttering toast/ pouring drinks/ stopping squabbles/ answering questions/ changing a nappy/ soothing tantrums/ researching birthday parties etc.
5. The kids can’t go back upstairs once they’re downstairs
This might sound mean, but everything goes a lot more swimmingly if you don’t have to coax the children away from their favourite toys day after day, just to go to school.
6.Brush hair and teeth downstairs
This tip, passed on from another wise friend, has been vital to my sanity. Previously, we had to keep trooping up to the bathroom and back down again, with all the cajoling, squabbles and rising stress levels that this involved. But now we keep hair clips, bobbles and teeth paraphernalia in the kitchen, and I get these big jobs ticked off straight after breakfast, two paces from my nice cup of tea.
7. Accept that you can’t always win
Your toddler probably cares nothing for your time management skills. Mine protests loudly and tearfully when it’s time to brush his teeth or get him dressed, so despite my best intentions, we still end up racing to beat the school bell occasionally. Just goes to show, no matter how organised you are, those pesky kids may get you in the end.