Every year starts out with so many expectations, and it can be very overwhelming. Who has time to make a cute chalk board sign for each kid? Adorable cookie cutter sandwiches? That will last two months... tops. So what can you do to help make the transition from bathing suits to backpacks easier? Here are a few (very simple) tips to keep the momentum up from beginning to end of year. (Hint: One of them involves coffee).

Tip #1, Get the teacher a gift. It sounds SO '90's (and early 2000's) to get something for a teacher you don't even know. However, I have discovered with my kids, the teachers are 100% more likely to stay in communication with me, and give my kids grace than the years I did NOT buy a gift because I was busy/didn't have money/etc. Moral of the story, buy something. I suggest a bag of Happy Place Drip Grind. If the student has more than one teacher, the sample pack (you can choose what coffee to get) is a GREAT gift. They bags are small enough to tuck into a small inexpensive mug. Adding in a $10.00 office supply gift card wouldn't hurt either. Most teachers use their own money to buy low-income students their supplies. If you can afford to do so, help off-set the cost. If you can't don't feel bad! A dollar store mug, and coffee works just fine!

Tip #2, Have your student use their cell phone to alert them of homework, projects due, and practice times. People my generation use planners, but some kiddo's find it hard to get into the habit of writing things down, They are "boss" at using their phones though. Have them install an app that they can use to set reminders and even email projects to their teachers when they are done. It is also helpful to have the student take a picture of their homework as it is completed so they have a digital copy of everything they have done should a teacher misplace a worksheet. (Hey... it happens...). This will also help everyone stay on the same page when it comes to areas they can use more help as well.

Tip #3, Do. Not. Over. Schedule. This goes for you too, Mom. It is tempting to sign up for the PTA, coaching, and still keep your job, but you know what? By November, you are going to be crazy again. If you happen to have time, say yes! If you know this is going to eat into time with your family, say "NO." (Pretend you are three years old and someone is offering you boiled carrots). Kids that may not have school concepts down, do not necessarily need to be playing in three different sports. Teach them time management and allow them to get tutoring. There are several GREAT apps, and Khan Academy that can help struggling students gain the subject confidence they need. Once the grades are up, add in activities.

Tip #4, Look at the school lunch menu and decide what days the student is going to eat at school and what days they will pack a lunch. Set a reminder on your phone the number of days in the week you are sending a lunch. Prepare lunches on Sunday and pack them into gallon zip-lock bags with the day of the week labeled on the bag. You can also purchase Bento Boxes (Grocery outlet has them cheap, as does Amazon) and make several days lunches in the box and have them ready to go, minus the "chip/cookie/snack" item to add the day of. Just pop the Bento Box or bag into the lunch box with a cooler and your kid is ready-to-go with no last-minute frustration.

Tip #5, DO NOT put your child's personal information out there publicly! Over 400,000 children* are reported missing each year. Those chalk board signs are adorable, but they are an inherent security risk for your kid. Giving out their school, grade, and favorite animal means a predator can use that. ("Hi there ___, I just lost my baby bunny. Can you help me find him? I have two more at home. This one just got away from me. I really need your help. Do you like bunnies?") This may sound over-protective, but that's how I am. Immediate friends and family can have detailed information, but let's not post that all over the internet. There are a lot of Epstein type's out there. (Those that hastily scribbled the grade on a piece of paper feel a lot better now, don't they?). Bottom line: Be paranoid about safety. That way they can make it to the end of the school year!

BONUS: The best thing you can do, is to ensure the health (mental, physical, and even spiritual) of everyone in our household. Don't be afraid to ask for help in any way you need it. Everyone gets overwhelmed and there is always someone out there that can relate and understand. Make sure your kids (and you) have their annual exams. It is worth the investment! Go for a walk as a family after dinner. Get outside together at least four times during the week. That time is an investment in your children. They may not love basketball, but they will love that you were there. If you feel over-whelmed, take one thing off the schedule. Take time for yourself, (may I suggest drinking your coffee before the kids get up?) and have a wonderful start to the school year.

*Numbers are per the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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