Parents need to get ready for school too

You work hard to prepare your child for school, but when the day school starts, your schedule and priorities also are askew. How can you smooth the transition? Here's the advice of the experts.

• "Don't schedule important work meetings the first week of school, in case something goes wrong and you have to run over to the school," said Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, director of government relations for the National Association of School Psychologists.


•Kids reflect your attitude. Make returning to school a good thing, not something to dread.

Introduce yourself to your children's teachers. Tell them you welcome their calls and emails. Then, you can work together to prevent minor problems before they morph into major problems.

Establish a network of parents and neighbors you can call in a pinch. "One of your best resources is the lady in the neighborhood who baby-sits in her home," said Beth Mattey, president-elect of the National Association of School Nurses. "She knows everyone."

Compile a group chat with your circle of parents, then tell the school who can pick up your child in case of emergency.

Talk to your child about school expenses, from the band-uniform fee to the lost-book fine. You'll avoid headaches, and he'll take his first step toward financial literacy.

Create a neighborhood co-op, using points instead of cash, so parents can watch one another's kids after school and/or on holidays. Each month, a different parent keeps track of points and matches sitters with children. The kids are safe and happy to be with their friends, and you save sitter money.

Using your personal days to volunteer for the school saves you time in the long run by keeping you informed. You'll learn, for example, if your school will close with next year's population decrease and how the new math curriculum will affect your child.

If attending your child's school activities drains your bank of personal days, ask your boss if you can take off some days without pay. Review the school calendar for events that are the most important to your child, like the holiday concert or trip to the zoo.

Sign up to be a "room parent." Better to organize the class Halloween party ahead than to field crisis calls in October.

For each child, keep an "important papers" file with vaccination records, ACT scores, etc., so you can access them when the school needs them. Send each child to college with his own file.

Prepare for that 3-5 p.m. period, when younger kids need supervision and, older kids — ruled by raging hormones — hunt for empty houses. Look for after-school programs or part-time sitters.

If your child is old enough to be home alone after school, consider buying a wireless system that enables you use your cellphone to monitor her comings and goings and whether or not she locked the door. If nothing else, buy a nanny cam.

Use your weekends to ease your weekdays. Freeze dinners. Make lunches. Grocery shop. Repack backpacks.

"For your high school and college kids, anticipate their high-stress times like finals," said Cynthia Edwards, Raleigh, N.C., mother of two and psychology professor. Support them instead of adding to their stress by, for example, insisting they attend a family function.


Look forward to the day when the kids leave the house — for good — and you and your spouse can be newlyweds again. "Mother Nature takes care of this for you; kids are not nice during their teenage years, so you want an empty nest," said Mary-Jo Caldwell, a Raleigh environmental engineer and mom of two. "We hope to travel more, redecorate the house and keep our relationship vibrant. Honestly, we won't be devastated when they're gone!"

Leslie Mann is a freelance reporter.