Surviving Back to School

Surviving Back to School with Lulu & Levi

With the kids now starting back into their first full week of school and the routines that had been lost over the summer months coming back into play we feel it's very important as a parent to stop, take a breath and settle ourselves.

There is so much excitement around back to school for both the kids and parents but it can also be very overwhelming.

We see so much online about what your kids should eat for lunch and people making these amazing looking lunches with animal shapes and salad and all the healthy goodies and it can make us look at how we are doing things and judge ourselves unnecessarily. Every kid is different and with that every parent is different. 

The pressure of the school lunch

What you make for lunch one day is not necessarily what your kids may love the next day. They may gobble up homemade pasta for dinner but give it to them for lunch and it may come home untouched with a hungry and moody kid. As much as I believe in healthy lunches for kids I know for a fact that some days to preserve my own mental health, it's the old favourite the humble jam sandwich that kept us all alive for years. 

It's hard enough to get the kids to eat certain foods at home most days without some sort of argument so never mind sending them to school and expecting things to be different. It can also make your child very anxious if they are sent to school with something they do not want and know they will be made to eat in the case of younger kids who are looked after at break time. 

Sure! cut a sandwich into the shape of a dragon, motorbike, castle, whatever you can think of as long as there's chocolate spread in there it'll be eaten! However if a cucumber happens to be anywhere near or worse, touching his bread, however cute it is, Jacob will not touch it and honestly I'm more concerned at this time of year about preserving my own sanity!

Personally I would rather have a simple sandwich, crackers, fruit, cheese string, biscuit, yogurt or whatever else you can think of going with them to school and have an empty lunchbox come home than send them in with a load of food I know will not be eaten and have to throw it in the bin that evening. 

We look at the world around us through the eyes of social media and see these amazing Mum's who seemingly have it all together. Creating lunches like works of art and it can almost immediately make us feel like failures (even when we know it's just for social media and not real) We can be so critical of ourselves, judging ourselves based on what we think the world expects us to be doing. We feel like we should be doing more for our kids and upping the standards constantly. I think the best thing we can do is give ourselves a break and remember that sadly there are some kids in Ireland who are still not even getting a lunch at all let alone a gourmet one, so as long as your child is loved, fed and warm you're doing an amazing job Mama! We salute all you parents absolutely killing it this week! ❤️

(On a side note, don't kill yourself trying to cut the sandwich into certain shapes, it's impossible for most of us. However if you do feel like trying, make it easy, you can get some cool shape cutters online or in your local store, if that's what you feel like doing.)

Some kids like variety and little bits of different food is what they will love. Our Poppy Lou is a picky eater in the sense that she will try anything but will only eat very small amounts of one particular thing, so sending her off with a big sandwich is the wrong approach for her.

If you want to make sure the kids will love what they have try to get them involved with picking out some items to get. Now I am not saying take them into the supermarket and let them at it, you'll end up with a trolley full of crisps, biscuits and chocolate. Instead think of it like a little picnic with different little bits to keep them interested.

The only real important thing is that the kids have a nice breakfast and a full belly heading out the door and they will not be skipping lunch and getting over hungry in school. As adults most of us are not able to deal with being hungry and trying to work, now put yourself in a kids position in school, it's hard enough to keep them focused for a full day of learning in general.

To all the parents out there, don't feel like you have to meet someone else's standards, all you have to do is remember you know what is best for your kids.

Morning routines

Getting back into the swing of things after a couple of months away from the school routine can be a major upheaval at home. Those less stressful leisurely mornings that the kids had gotten used to with some early morning cartoons, beach days or the trips to hang out with friends for the day to play or getting spoilt by the grandparents have come to a sudden stop and it can be hard for everyone in the house to readjust to it all.

It's going to take some time but some little simple things can make it all that little bit easier.  

We use a little reward chart here for little Poppy Lou & Jacob and at the end of the day they get some stickers on the chart. It's great because it's just for normal things they need to do each day but with kids it's getting them to stick to it is the hard bit. A stray toy in the hall or a rubber duck in the bathroom and they are off into their own little world and as far as they are concerned it's play time. It's not always going to do the trick but it helps.

Some of ours include

  • Getting dressed for school (having the uniform all ready to go at the end of the bed from the night before helps here) although there will be mornings it's coming out of the dryer as they are getting up. Life just gets busy.
  • Dressing their bed. Keep it simple, it's just teaching them to keep it all off the floor which is a regular occurrence here.
  • Eating their breakfast (especially when there is a bit less time than they have usually had for this)
  • Brushing their teeth
  • Putting their lunch box and bag out at the front door

It doesn't really matter what it is. Everyone's chart will be different, but the kids look forward to getting their stickers at the end of the day (more than the treat sometimes). We use coloured stars you can pick up in most arts and craft shops or somewhere like Dealz or the euro stores.

The treats don't even need to be anything different than they already get, it just makes it more like a game for them. It could be some TV time, an ice pop, a second story at bedtime, some arts and crafts, the list is endless.

Its not going to turn anyone's kids into the perfect little angels who listen to every word you say and do everything you ask them to but it might just take a little bit of the daily stress out of the madness of some mornings.

First day at school, new class or new school 

This is one area as parents I think most of us can agree we think about a lot, probably more than the kids.

All the thoughts that go through your head.....

  • What if they can't settle
  • What if they don't make friends straight away
  • What if they have an accident 
  • What if they don't get on with their teacher
  • How can I leave them when they are upset going to school in the morning
  • Did I pick the right school
  • What if they can't pick things up as quick as other kids
  • Am I giving them enough for lunch (covered above)

These and a million more, each of us with different concerns, worries and questions. The only thing you can do is teach your kids to be themselves, to ask for help if they need it and for us as parents to get excited about how their day was.

We only this year changed Jacob from one school to another. It's something we did after a lot of consideration and asking ourselves so many questions but in the end we decided it was what was best for him. Once we keep an eye on him he will be fine. You will usually know when something is not right for you or if your child is not settled in school. It could be a change in behaviour, they may become a little nervous or anxious or maybe you're just not happy with how they are progressing with their learning.

The important thing to remember is you have the power to do what is right for your kids, this might be as simple as voicing your concerns rather than keeping them to yourself and worrying or feeling like their is nothing you can do. If a school doesn't seem like the right fit for you or your kids than there is nothing wrong with making a change. We all worry about the decisions we make being the best or the right ones but sometimes we just have to make them and see how it goes if the current plan is not working.

Moving school and leaving old friends behind and having to start again was a big concern for me as a Dad and how Jacob would settle in and handle the emotions of it all. He had a little bit of a panic a couple of weeks before school started back but by the time his first day came he was super excited. If you find yourself in a similar situation of looking at making a change the best advice I can give you now is to ask as many questions as you need to, look at the options you have available. Enquiring does not mean you are committed to it and you may decide after that you are actually happy with how things are and were just a little uncertain or that it is the right thing to do.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions on our experience of changing. Sometimes a little information can be a big help.

Things are not always playing sailing, kids can get very emotional and upset heading off to school or Montessori, its usually just separation anxiety, especially after they have had you for so long every day all day.

Poppy Lou started off to Montessori officially this week and so far she has cried going in the mornings and tells me she doesn't want to go. It's nothing to do with the place itself because the minute I leave she is perfect and down playing and making friends and when I pick her up she is always smiling and singing in the car on the way home and telling me who she has played with. It's just that she got used to getting up and hanging out with her brother and me and her Mam for the summer and it's all a big change again for her.

Think back to when you were in school, we all have some great memories of school, but I am sure you will be able to remember times when you didn't like it. Nothing major may have happened, maybe you didn't like a teacher when you got to a particular year, found the work a bit to tough to keep up with or something as simple as a friend moving away to a different school.

There are some great supports in most schools which make a huge difference with some of the issues that can crop up. Never be afraid to ask for help if its needed or to take it if its offered.

After school and homework

After school can be a tricky one. Everyone has different schedules depending on work, how many kids you have at different stages of school, after school activities, homework, that mid afternoon slump most kids get and any number of appointments that can pop up.

Its best just to figure out what works for you here, don't feel you have to have homework done straight away once the kids are home. They're wrecked tired after the school day as far as getting stuck into more work is concerned. Now a bit of playtime is a different story altogether. 

After school clubs can be great for a little bit if you live out the country like we do, or if your finding it hard to organise work and child minders. It's great for the kids to get in a bit of fun play time time with friends. Its hard to organise little play dates on a school day mainly because as I said above we all have different schedules and commitments and someone else might be picking up the kids.

Sometimes it's easier to tackle the homework after a bit of fun and a little snack to recharge. It can take twice as long if they're not in the humour for it. Life changes on a daily basis and you just have to adapt and go with it.

The best piece of advice I can leave you with is this. We are all learning as we go. Do whatever suits you, your family and your life. You can spend so much time over analysing everything based on what you see others doing, but when you stop, take a breath and settle yourself everything becomes much easier to do.

We recently launched our My Lulu & Levi Family online community which we plan to use to connect with families from all around the world and share some helpful tips, advice, family recipes, competitions and giveaways and more. If you would like to join us you can click on the link below.

Later this week we have a Ruthie Purcell who runs online Cookery kick start courses joining us to share to quick and easy recipes to feed the family. So be sure to join if you would like to find out more.

Love from all of us here at Lulu & Levi!

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