This time of year can be tricky, but these simple back-to-school hacks will make the transition so much easier. This post is sponsored by TruMoo. All opinions are my own.

I stood in front of the receptionist, breathless and wild-eyed but still smiling. I had just successfully navigated the pickup line at my daughter’s middle school for the first time and managed to get to the pediatrician a little early for her physical. I felt like a champ. A flustered champ with at least six other essential things on my to-do list before bedtime, but a champ nonetheless.

After a few taps of the keyboard, my bright-eyed enthusiasm was dashed. Apparently, I got there really early. The receptionist looked up over the top of her glasses and informed me that our appointment wasn’t for another week.

Oops.

I wanted to sink into the industrial carpeting and slink back out the front door. Hi, I’m a hot mess. And yes, I’m this kid’s mother.

Is anyone else having a really hard time getting used to the back-to-school schedule? September is almost over and I’m still struggling. Transitioning from a laid-back summer to a stricter, more full back-to-school schedule is not easy.

Still, in the week or two since The Incident, I’ve found three completely key tips that have made our lives so much easier.

Three back-to-school hacks to make the transition easier

back-to-school hacks | how to make life easier as you transition into a new school year | parenting school kids

Do as much as you possibly can the night before

School mornings can be a disaster—especially when coming off a summer vacation where kids could get up whenever they wanted. To make the inevitable struggle as easy on everyone as possible, try your damnedest to be one of those overly prepared moms you love to hate.

Make lunches the night before.

Agree on or set out outfits (including shoes!) the night before.

Figure out breakfast the night before.

Make sure all homework and supplies that need to be brought to school are in their backpacks—you guessed it—the night before.

Does it sound annoying and a tad overwhelming? Yeah. I know it does. But do you know what’s even more annoying and overwhelming? Trying to do all of these things with a cranky, half awake kid when you’re cranky and half awake yourself and trying to beat the clock. There will be yelling. There might even be tears. And you’re guaranteed to not be able to find something essential.

back-to-school hacks | ease into a new schedule with less meltdowns | parenting

Start a new homework and paperwork system—and stick to it!

It’s easier to start a new habit at the beginning of the school year than it will be in the middle when you’re already in the middle of a way of doing things that’s just not working.

In our house, we do homework as soon as we come off the bus. My middle schooler gets a little leeway because she’s proven herself (and also because she is old enough to take responsibility). If she starts slipping, she’ll go back to doing hers immediately also.

Why? I know my kids. If they get started on something else—whether it’s playing or watching a TV show or reading a book—it’s going to be really difficult to motivate them to transition into homework time. I remind them that once they finish the homework, they can do whatever they want.

Now, this might not work with your kids. Your kids might need to breathe a little after being locked up in school all day. They might need to run laps around the backyard or climb a tree or yell really loud. There’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, maybe give them their freedom when they come off the bus with the understanding that while you make dinner, they have to sit and do their homework.

The most important thing is to set a routine.

The same goes for the never-ending avalanche of paperwork that comes home from school. I have come to realize that if I don’t take care of it right away, I will completely forget about it and/or lose it in my I’ll Look At That Later graveyard. If it needs to be signed, I sign it immediately and put it back in their folder.

You might be better about paperwork than I am (teach me your secrets?). You might find that you can’t concentrate on paperwork when the kids are awake and you need to put it aside until they’re in bed. In that case, find a little spot to store papers that need your attention right away and make it a habit to look at them as soon as the kids are in bed.

back-to-school hacks | making the transition easier on kids and parents

Schedule one-on-one time with your kids

With all the running from activity A to activity B while trying to finish homework and figuring out how you can possibly be in two places at once, relaxed family time and positive interactions can get lost in the shuffle. It can be tough on kids when everyone is always hurrying somewhere. I’ve found that when my girls are particularly cranky or seem a little off a healthy dose of one-on-one time is magic.

If you can regularly schedule one-on-one time, do it.

This year, my daughters’ schedules work out so that I have about an hour with each of them when the other isn’t home. In the morning, Ellie gets on the bus around 8 and Samantha and I get to hang out for a solid 50 minutes before we walk to the bus stop. Whether I sit and talk with her while she gets ready or we eat a relaxed breakfast together (see tip one!), she thoroughly enjoys having a chunk of time when she has me for herself. She’ll tell me what’s going on in school and what her friends are up to. It’s a great way to connect and make sure she continues telling me things—especially at this age!

The same is true for her sister. Ellie gets off the bus in the afternoon about an hour before Samantha. We sit and have a snack, technology nowhere to be seen. I ask her about her day (she’s a little tougher to pull information out of, but I hope that starting these conversations now will lead to open communication as she gets older) and help her with her homework if she needs it.

back-to-school hacks | tips for making the transition easier

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3 back-to-school hacks that will make your life so much easier | parent hacks

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Written by Jennifer Garry

Jen is a freelance writer and girl mom from New York. When she’s not knee-deep in glittery crafts and girl talk, you can probably find her sprawled across her couch in the middle of a Netflix marathon with dark chocolate smeared on her face. The struggle is real.