The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder. This can only mean one thing…it’s almost back to school time.

We all have mixed feelings about this time of the year, whether we want to admit it or not.

I’ll go first.

I’m not sure how but I have feelings of excitement, sadness, fear, and anticipation, just to name a few. How is it possible to have such negative and positive emotions around the same event?

I have

  • excitement since I’m starting a new job and my teen boys are starting two new different grades,
  • sadness that I’m not returning to work with my previous students and co-workers,
  • fear of how my boys will fit into their new grades, classes, and social groups, and
  • anticipation on what we will all learn new this year.

What this can all add up to is overwhelm!

But the question is how do we get through the next couple of weeks and get over the hump of transition to the new school year? Here are the 5 tips that get my family through!

Don’t make it a big deal

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”, “Let it go”, <insert another cliché>.  However you choose to look at it, it boils down to the fact that we don’t need to make “back to school” out to be a big deal. In my house, I learned long ago, that making “back to school” a big deal just stressed everyone more. This was really an unnecessary additional stressor. The first day back to school was going to happen whether we had new outfits, new lunch bags or took back to school photos. The first day of school was a date on the calendar, a date where instead of getting up and going to camp or going to play video games or read a book, the kids would go to school instead. This need not be a big deal, it really could be just another day doing a different thing.

Do make 3 freezer meals

Even if you try to make the first week of school to be just another week, it often does represent a week back to a tough routine. Earlier starts in the morning, making lunches, and the start of extracurricular activities just take more time. Make 3 freezer meals for that first week because you are going to be tired. Meal making can be a hard thing to fit in that first week so having some frozen meals reduces the stress a bit…spaghetti sauce and chilli are mainstays for us.  Often, I don’t even end up using all 3 freezer meals in this first week but it is comforting to know that they are there just in case.

Do a drive/bike by the school

I know the kids might want to avoid it at all costs but if your kids are anything like mine, the anxiety is starting to build up about the school. Is there anything new at the school? Will there be new paint on the walls? Will there be new bike racks or a play structure? New office staff? For the past 11 years, I have made up some excuse to drop in to my kid’s schools with them. I suspect, now that my boys are older, that they are on to my excuses but they still play along with me! My justification is that it helps Mom feel a little less anxious and, even if my boys won’t admit it, it helps them feel a little less anxious. Dropping in with an excuse allows us to take a walk around and see anything that might be new. It’s often been a bonus that we end up meeting new teachers or old friends along the way. This makes the first day of school no longer the first day at the school!

Don’t spend lots of money on back to school shopping

Back to school shopping, in my own opinion, is really a marketing ploy. How did we ever allow ourselves to get embroiled into this? I remember growing up feeling the need to have new everything for the first day of school, brought on by back to school commercials I suspect. But it’s kind of peculiar! The date that school reopens has little to do with when new backpacks are needed or new t-shirts are required and you likely already have a healthy supply of pencils, markers, paper, etc. in the house.  Save yourself some stress right now and move on to tip #5 instead of heading to the stores for “back to school” shopping.

Do enjoy the last days of summer

Saving the most important tip for last, enjoy the last days of the summer break! What can you do to keep the summer break going right to the end? Did you miss seeing the summer show your city has put on? You still have time to do that. Did you miss having friends over for a BBQ? Now is the time to do that. Did you miss going to that bike ride to the beach? Going canoeing? Going white water rafting? Going on a picnic? Now is the time to do it! Think back to your summer bucket list and make it happen, it’s not too late.

Back to school will happen whether you prep for it or not, whether you stress about it or not, whether you are ready for it or not. What will you do to make this time of the year less stressful?

Interested in learning more tips on how to have less stress in your parenting? I’ve created a Facebook Group called Stress-less Parenting with Penny Mayo, come join us!

Penny Mayo, a Parent Solutions Consultant, Helps Families Help Themselves! Struggling with finding support for her challenging kids, Penny changed her career from engineering to working with kids with different needs. Through experience, Penny has honed her ability to see the stressors that kids face and to collaboratively solve the problems that stand in the way of a calm home front. Now, Penny teaches other parents how to do this for their own families. She provides consulting and, workshops and is developing on-line resources for parents.

You can find Penny at, on Facebook at: and in her Facebook group: Stress-less Parenting with Penny Mayo.