10 Back-to-School Survival Tips for Crazy-Busy Moms

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  1. FOCUS ON YOU FIRST.

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.

2. GIVE THE KIDS CHORES.

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.

3. GET HELP WITH DINNER.

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.

4. SPLIT THE HOUSEHOLD DUTIES.

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.

5. 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

6. START PLANNING AHEAD.

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.

7. CLEAR YOUR MIND.

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.

8. PRACTICE BREATHING TO DE-STRESS.

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.

9. DE-ESCALATE TANTRUMS.

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.

10. REFOCUS YOUR ENERGY (AND YOUR KIDS’ TOO!).

“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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