30 Back-to-School Survival Tips for Crazy-Busy Moms (2023)

30 Back-to-School Survival Tips for Crazy-Busy Moms (1)

Since September is like the New Year for families, we figure it's the perfect time to make some new parenting resolutions. The experts we spoke to helped come up with back-to-school goals that will bring more success for the kids and you!

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Focus on you first.

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Funny, there don't seem to be Mother's Day cards that say, "Thanks for caring about your own needs too, Mom!" Organization expert Julie Morgenstern, author of the new book Time to Parent, makes an excellent case for why maybe there should be: "The time when you're raising kids is the prime of your own human development — the peak of your career and relationship-building opportunities. We've been taught that parents are supposed to sacrifice those needs for our children. Actually, all that sacrificing undermines your ability to be a great parent. If you're not fulfilled, it's really hard to nurture the fulfillment of your kids. Parenting is about fitting the right combination of things into your life so that you are whole and your child is whole." That's why it's important to incorporate stress-relieving and joy-boosting habits into your life.

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Give the kids chores.

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Chores make kids strong. A recent study suggests that children as young as 3 who are given age-appropriate tasks to handle around the house are more empathetic and self-reliant.

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Get help with dinner.

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You'll save time and have happier meals — enlisting help with dinner might be the trick to getting picky eaters to try new foods and eat healthier, experts believe. Having little ones measure ingredients and read directions aloud will also help improve basic math and reading skills.

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Split the household duties.

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Sharing the load can improve your marriage. Women on average spend about 90 minutes more on household chores a day than their partners. But couples who split housework equally have more sexual intimacy and relationship satisfaction, according to research published in the American Sociological Association's journal. Next date night: laundry and chill.

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Get creative.

Think twice before passing up the opportunity to plop down beside your kindergartner and finger paint. Being creative can reduce stress, boost happiness, and even help preserve memory, not to mention that your imaginativeness can impact the development of your child's.

"Research shows that creativity is not very inheritable; you're not born creative or not," says Amy Eisenmann, early education adviser for the Bay Area Discovery Museum and Center for Childhood Creativity. "Kids develop it through experiences and the people they interact with. Now it's especially crucial that they do, because most of the jobs in the future will require creative problem-solving abilities." To boost yours, find things that allow you to turn off your inner critic and do a little bit of playful exploration, she says

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Start planning ahead.

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Schedule like a pro with tips from Emily Ley, creator of Simplified Planners and Pilot Pen's new Happy Stripe Precise V5 pens. "Choose a printed planner or an online calendar system and enter all commitments as soon as you know about them. I use a different color for each child so I can see at a glance who needs to be where. Making all their annual or biannual doctor's visits in January or June means we get everything done in those two months and I don't have to worry about them throughout the year. I also plan all my weekly business calls and meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This helps me ensure that I'm not always trying to squeeze in more creative things or volunteering," Ley says.

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Clear your mind.

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Pop that negativity bubble! To stop a downward mental spiral (If I were a better mom ... or I'll never be able to ... ), stand up! "When you physically move your body, your state of mind shifts too," says Petra Kolber, author of The Perfection Detox. "Our brains tend toward negative thoughts when we're sitting idle, so make it a habit to move whenever you notice they're headed that way," Kolber says.

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Practice breathing to de-stress.

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For one full minute, breathe in for four seconds and out for six. "Any time we exhale longer than we inhale, it will move us out of that fight-or-flight stress response and into the present," Kolber says.

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De-escalate tantrums.

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This one, from Kristen Race, Ph.D., author of Mindful Parenting, works well for young kids. While hugging, take three deep breaths. Even if they are too upset to breathe with you, they will start to learn how to use their breath to calm themselves.

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Refocus your energy (and your kids' too!).

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"Practice finger breathing together," says Race. "Move fingers apart as you breathe for a count of five, then together at the same pace." This soothing technique helps kids refocus during stressful activities like test-taking.

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Make dinner fun.

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Meredith Sinclair, author of Well Played says you should find little ways to sneak fun into the day. So slap a paper runner and crayons on the table during dinnertime. "It'll get you to ditch your phones and connect," Sinclair says.

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Liven up your routine.

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Try something off the regularly scheduled program every now and then! "List things for your kids to 'spy' on your dog walk, or hold an 'emergency evacuation' during homework time due to playground withdrawal! You get on those swings too and see how amazing you feel," Sinclair says.

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Lighten the mood.

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When the house feels tense, head over to what Sinclair calls the play crate. "Keep a bin in the kitchen filled with joke books and art supplies to curb bad moods and boredom," she says.

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Don't say yes right away.

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We know, as a parent, sometimes it's hard to say no — to your kids, teachers, parental responsibilities, etc. But, Sheryl Ziegler, Psy.D., author of Mommy Burnout says try, "I'll get back to you." This response gives you a chance to think about what you want to do and will eliminate those stressful things on your overstuffed plate, Ziegler says.

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Find your passion project.

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It could even turn into something lucrative. "I wanted a way to give back to my community that the kids could do with me," says mom of two, Rose Gebran. "I love making cookies, so I figured I'd sell them and donate the proceeds." Now, RoRo's Cookies is a full- fledged social enterprise, with 100% of the proceeds going to local charities in Boise, Idaho. "At first my son was like, 'Why would you give your money away?' But the change in both of them as they've seen how our hard work is helping others has been amazing."

One more upside of Rose's charitable work: Her kids will likely find it easier to succeed at their own dream projects. As Jennifer Dulski, author of Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter?, explains: "Exposing children to people who have found a purpose, whether you go to a march or visit a local business, helps them believe it might be possible for them."

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Find a happy middle for big decisions.

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No matter whether you're making a big decision, like where to send your teen to college, or a little one, like what to bring to the school bake sale, overevaluating your options will lead to the most regret, shows a recent University of Waterloo study. Tell yourself there may be slightly better options instead of a single right one, and you'll be more satisfied. Or simply follow the advice of Morgenstern's Max-Mod-Min rule: Decide what's the most you could do (baking a dozen cupcakes from scratch) and the least (buying them from the local bakery). Then do something in the middle, such as dressing up store-bought cupcakes with the gorge oven-dried pineapple topper above.

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Shake off the work guilt.

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It's the eternal struggle: You're worried about neglecting your kids because of work or that colleagues think you're shirking work because of the kids. Let this ease your mind.

Julie Ross, executive director of Parenting Horizons says, kids want their parents to like work, and studies show that children of working moms fare as well as those of stay-at-home ones. "They just don't want to feel it is more important that they are," Ross says. Just make sure they know they could never be replaced.

Also, refrain from oversharing says Tet Salva, founder and CEO of the online community MomWarrior. Your time off is yours to do with as you want, so "instead of, 'I have to leave at three to take my kid to the dentist,' say, 'I have a hard stop at three' and leave it at that," Salva says.

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Maximize quality time.

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You know that certain types of quality time, like eating meals and reading together, are important for a child's well-being. But it turns out that even shorter bursts of a attention, if consistent, can be beneficial: "As long as it becomes part of their routine, like 15 uninterrupted minutes together a day talking before school or at bedtime, it can be enough to make them feel secure and loved," says parenting expert Julie Ross. Unexpectedly have 20 minutes free? Take a stroll around the neighborhood. "Being exposed to nature for even 20 minutes can enhance cohesion among family members," says Dina Izenstark, Ph.D., assistant professor in child and adolescent development at San José State University.

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Pick your battles.

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Here's one fight you can be okay with losing. While bedtime bribes might have worked when they were little, enforcing a "lights out" rule with teens rarely goes as smoothly. Thankfully, a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that 16- to 19-year-olds who went to bed between 10 and 11 p.m. had higher GPAs — so you can let your resistant night owl win this round.

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Accept that you won't have all the answers.

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Danica McKellar, mom of one, author, and founder of mckellarmath.com knows the struggles of parents trying to keep up with new school teachings, like Common Core math. As someone who writes math textbooks, she gets questions from parents all the time asking: "How can I help my kids with their homework?" She tells parents to hang in there. Learning most new things doesn't come easy. "Also, Common Core isn't a bad thing. Do Not Open This Math Book (ages 6 to 9) illuminates these methods is a fun, cartoony way, often showing two methods for solving the problem side by side — the new way and another parents will recognize" McKellar says.

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