5 Back-to-School Things Parents Can Do for Themselves

Placing the school year in God’s hands will ensure grace, inspiration and protection for your whole family.

“Back to School”
“Back to School” (photo: Shutterstock)

When it’s back-to-school time, the focus tends to be on what parents need to do for their children. But what about what parents can do for themselves?

Getting kids set for the new school year requires a lot of time and energy, not to mention the cost of clothes, books, fees and supplies. This is all well and good, but it can leave parents feeling drained and discouraged. Parents can become so consumed by their kids’ needs that they forget that they have needs that should be met as well. Whether your children are going to a conventional school or home school, there are things parents can do for themselves that will help them to grow mentally and spiritually.

Here are five things parents can do for themselves both before and during the school year to help things run more smoothly and nourish their minds and souls at the same time.

1. Secure some time for yourself. Whether it’s just 15 minutes or 30 minutes a day, take some time to recharge your own battery amid all the extra activities surrounding your children. Spend that time in conversation with our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, who also were educators and understand all that entails. I’ve made it my habit to get up earlier than the kids, sit quietly in our dining room and have a cup of coffee (or two) and conversation with Mary.

2. Get to know your children’s teachers. It is not enough just to know their names. Make the time to chat with them in person about their philosophy of education and expectations for your child. Share about your own philosophy of education, your expectations for the school year and a bit of your family background. This will help you understand your kids’ teachers and your kids’ teachers to understand your kids and you. 

3. Do something to broaden your own horizon. Choose an enriching book to read on a topic you’ve always wanted to know more about. A physical book is far better than a digital one or even educational videos. It’s important to model behavior for your kids. If you want them interested in books, then you need to demonstrate that you are interested in them, too. Share your choice with your children and tell them (at their own level of understanding) some of the things you’ve learned. This will foster school-time camaraderie between you and your kids.

4. Develop a workable schedule and routine. For most families, back-to-school means a huge change in daily routines and schedules which can throw everyone off course. Expect this and be prepared. While trying to stick to a too-rigid schedule can do more harm than good, it’s helpful to have a solid reference point for your days. Think ahead how the school year will be and, along with your kids, work out a schedule that can be flexible and helpful for everyone. In our family, we started the school year bedtime and rising time routines two weeks before school began so our minds and bodies could get used to the change.

5. Cut yourself some slack. Know that there will be crazy days when you are fatigued, overwhelmed and scrambling to get things done. Have a backup plan for those days by keeping some nutritious quick-fix foods in the pantry or freezer that you can fall back on when the going gets rough. This can take tremendous pressure off a chaotic and stressful day. You might even want to keep some paper plates and disposable utensils around to minimize cleanup on those days. In our house, we had a “picnic supper” on such days by making things as laid back as possible. Sometimes we would even spread a blanket on the middle of the living room floor and eat our meal there.

The key ingredient to all the points above is attitude. If parents approach the school year with negative expectations, then it will tend to go negatively. If parents approach the school year with positive expectations and optimism, then it will go positively. Pray together as a family for a fruitful school year and then pray together daily for a fruitful school day. Placing the school year in God’s hands will ensure graces, inspiration, and protection for your whole family.

Sunlight illuminates a tree in full bloom as New York City celebrates Earth Day at Governors Island on April 20, 2024 in New York City. Earth Day originally started in 1970 as a way to celebrate and raise awareness about environmental issues facing the planet.

5 Catholic Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day and in response to the Holy Father’s message urging the faithful to take action in protecting the environment, here are five ways Catholics can celebrate Earth Day.