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Today marks the end of my kiddos' first week of school, and I couldn't be happier to have them back. They are also happy to be back! I can tell they are more relaxed and fulfilled at the end of the day than when they were trapped inside all day on electronics. Being around their friends and learning new skills is so healthy! Not to mention, it's nice to have peace and quiet at home to work.
But every year can also bring anxiety around this time. This is because you now need to get your children to and from school every day. This may not be an issue if you have a bus route and the stop isn't too far from your home. However, if you have to drive them to school or even the bus stop, it's something that may be difficult during a flare.
If you don't have a spouse or family member who can take them when you can't, I suggest connecting with a neighbor or friend who has children at the school. I know it's not easy to reach out for help but letting someone know at the beginning of the school year that you have challenges can prevent the last-minute angst of not knowing who to call. You would be surprised how helpful other parents are. Remember, most people know it takes a village and are happy to lend a hand. You can even offer to return the favor! We all have bad days, even healthy people. Trust me, having this backup in place allows you to honor your health when you need to and lessens the power fibro has over your life.
Don't drag yourself up and down the store's isles to end up in bed. You have much better options! Remember, we need to be smart about how we use our spoons. Technology has thankfully given us a big win.
On Amazon's back-to-school site, all you need to do is type in your zip code, select your child's school, and then their grade, and voila, all the items are loaded, and you can add the whole list or deselect the items you already have. It can take you less than five minutes and a minimal amount of thought to complete back-to-school shopping. Target and Walmart have similar options.
Target also has a school list assist tool to help populate your child's supply list. Use drive up and go to make your life easier or take advantage of their local delivery service.
Walmart's supply list tool is also great and has access to the same information.
In my experience, only the younger grades were available to be automatically loaded. So, if this isn't available to you, you may have to add items individually. This can take time. Luckily, the older kiddos are technically savvy and enjoy creating their carts, so let them do it! You can always go through and double-check before submitting the order. Then, be sure to use those drive-up services to pick it all up!
I also HIGHLY recommend getting your school supplies sooner than later. Most schools release the lists very early in the summer. This year I had ours done a month before school started, which made things much less stressful.
Routines & Responsibility
If you are anything like me, I was not born a child who gravitated towards organization. Instead, I had to discover its power after finally relenting the long-held belief that planning sucked the fun out of life. I still think you need spontaneity in life, but when you have children and unpredictable chronic health conditions, you must create stability and support.
Set Clear Expectations
Returning to the subject of enlisting children to take on responsibility, the start of school is a great time to brush up on chores and schedules. At school, your children will learn to be responsible for themselves and adhere to a schedule, so continuing this at home sets expectations for behavior and structure, giving everyone in the family a sense of ease. Over the summer, our routines can get lost between vacations and relaxation. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, when life starts to have to increase, varying commitments, a schedule can ensure everything gets done. If clear expectations are set, there's less discussion around who will do what and when.
Organization doesn't need to be overly complicated. Below is a free chart for morning and evening routines. You can choose six tasks and have your child write them in the space. Younger children might include basic things like brushing teeth or making the bed. Older children can take out the trash, wash dishes, or take care of pets. They mark the chart for each day. Eventually, they will need to reference the chart less and less, and the chores become habits. You can always download another chart and add on if you think your child is ready for more responsibility. There can be pushback in the beginning, but you will see that children begin to feel a sense of pride and belonging when they contribute to the family, and knowing what is expected of them creates a sense of safety.
Daily Routine & After School Routine
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After-school routines are also very important! There needs to be a set time every day set aside for homework/studying/or reading. It can be difficult to tell your child to go do their homework when they have a different time in mind. While chores might be more driven by a child's age level and parent's desires, after-school routines need to keep in mind the child's personality. Are they the kind of kiddo who prefers to sit down and knock out homework right away to get it over with? Or, like my son, do they need some downtime and a healthy snack first first? Sometimes giving them a bit of a break with a clear expectation of when it's time to do homework can make the homework battles a lot less rough.
Work Together To Explore Solutions
I suggest sitting down with your child and developing a plan together. Then, if you are open to it, I would suggest doing the same thing with the morning/evening routines and at least letting your child pick one or two things of their own.
Try to focus on your child's successtheir routine instead of bringing up when they forget. Also, please encourage them to be proud of themselves for helping the family and taking care of themselves rather than offering your pride as praise. This builds a child's self-efficacy and internal motivation and can encourage responsibility in other areas.
When life starts to get busy, our schedules can get in the way of healthy eating. We become overwhelmed by the increased demands, and cut corners by increasing our use of Uber Eats, drive-thrus, and frozen or premade meals. We also start to pack our children's lunches with chips, cookies, and premade PB&J sandwiches full empty calories and excess sugar. These foods aren't doing their little brains any favors considering we are asking them to sit still, focus, and learn.
I totally get it and sometimes that is my life too! At the end of the day, if everyone is fed, it's a win. But, it doesn't mean that we can let these behaviors become the norm, and it's far too easy to slip in to old habits if we don't make a conscious effort to support our true goal of fueling our bodies so we can live long healthy active lives, or whatever healthy nutrition means to you. Our children may gripe when they have to replace their fruit snacks with strawberries, and add lettuce to their sandwich, but it's a battle worth fighting, mom.
Meal Plan Together
Start discussing food preferences with your child and make a list of likes, dislikes, and want to try, willing to try with fruits, veggies, meats, and any other foods or spices. Including them and listening to their wants and needs will increase the chances of empty lunch boxes and less tears at dinner.
Keep in mind it can take up to 10 times of trying a food for your child to decide if they like it.¹ Exposure is the best practice to increase the likelihood of your child developing a healthy diverse diet.
If your child doesn't have very many fruits and vegetables that they like, it's okay. Encourage them to think of foods they have seen that have looked appetizing. Also, suggest some foods that they might work on trying over the few months. Serve it cooked differently and with varying combinations of foods. Broccoli, for example is less strong when it is steamed than raw. Adding butter, lemon, cheese, dip, or a sauce of their choosing may totally change their reaction. In a study of preschoolers, using a dip with vegetables was found to encourage initial tasting of a vegetable.² Encourage them to help you find new recipes, or experiment at dinner with toppings.
To make Food Discovery easier, download this free chart to help create a plan to expand your child's diet and increase your odds of pain free dinners. That's a win every Spoonie Mom needs!
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Don't forget to slip a note from mom in those lunches. Words of praise and positivity remind our children we are proud of them and that they should be proud of themselves! A little kindness here and there can go a long way to making your kiddos day. Even the big kids! I thought my sixth grader didn't care, until I found a years worth of notes stashed away in her planner.
Pick A Day To Prep
Pick a day of the week to meal plan, grocert shop, and prep food for the upcoming week. In my house it is Sunday and my family comes together to tackle it. I get extra hands in the kitchen, and learn healthy cooking habits and skills, win-win! In my house, we do this on Sunday, because we have pretty traditional Monday-Friday schedules, but it can truly be whatever works best for you all. Maybe you all like to break up your week with a Wednesday night meal planning evening? Or perhaps you like to shop on Tuesday's to take advantage of sales, or even Monday while the kids are at school. Whatever works best for you! But if you aren't planning, it ain't gonna happen. Some people like to go one step further and cut down their amount of evenings spent cooking, by batch cooking ahead of time. More on this tool in next week's post. If you need some recipe ideas check out my Recipes page for easy, nutritious, kid-approved meals.
Remember What's Important
Like I mentioned earlier, don't get discouraged if it all feels chaotic. Don't beat yourself up if you forgot a supply, relied on Uber eats for the past week, or have been late almost every morning to drop your kids off. Effort not perfection is what makes you a great mom. Hopefully these tips will make life a little smoother for you and help manage stress and fibro flares. You are a warrior mama never forget it! Stay tuned next week for meal planning tips and tricks to make your life easier!
1. Lakkakula, A., Geaghan, J., Zanovec, M., Pierce, S., & Tuuri, G. (2010). Repeated taste exposure increases liking for vegetables by low-income elementary school children. Appetite, 55(2), 226–231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2010.06.003
2. Anzman-Frasca, S., Savage, J. S., Marini, M. E., Fisher, J. O., & Birch, L. L. (2012). Repeated exposure and associative conditioning promote preschool children's liking of vegetables. Appetite, 58(2), 543–553. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2011.11.012