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Back-to-School Advice for PARENTS: 8 tips to keep you sane! By Dr. Meenakshi Kumar

So, the time has come! The start of a new school year is often the time we realize that our children have grown a little bit more, becoming independent young women and men, yet there is so much for us parents to get done and coordinate each day! How do you stay balanced when there is so much to accomplish? Remember that it’s not only the kids you need to take care of, but yourself, as well. Here are some practical tips to keep you well as you embark on a new school year:

Make a weekly calendar with meals that you and your family plan on eating for the week. Depending on the ages of your children, they can write in what they want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you have more than one child, come up with an agreed menu for the week after a menu-planning meeting. Post that menu calendar on the fridge. Now you can be prepared and there are no surprises! Make food the night before, get your groceries over the weekend and ask your children to help pack the lunches.

In addition to a family menu, also post on the refrigerator or other prominent spot, a weekly schedule of events and activities, so you and the kids won’t forget when they have gym class, club meetings, sports, and other events or extra-curricular at school. Ask your children to make a list of what they need to do every morning, from brushing their teeth to packing their school bag. Ask them to be responsible for getting that list done. Kids appreciate being responsible and younger children love having ‘jobs’. Let them take this on. It will reduce your stress load in the morning.

Invest in a blender with easy travel cup accessories to make quick, tasty, and nutritious smoothies in the morning with fruits, vegetables, and protein powder. Also take advantage of the many one-pot recipes or crock-pot cooking ideas to save time and reduce clean-up efforts. Remember that all snacks and meals need to have protein, so think about having a balance like hummus with carrots, yogurt, and cereal with nuts. If your child has food sensitivities or allergies, ask your doctor or nutritionist for advice.

If your children take medications and/or vitamins, pre-fill a pill box for the week. During breakfast, quickly put that day’s quota in a bowl. Now you can take that extra 3 min you’d spend opening each bottle for your shower!

As soon as you reunite after school and work, talk to your children about their day. Ask them to tell you what they did/learned/experienced. What was the best thing that happened? Was there anything that bothered them? What is their homework and how much of it did they already do at school? Knowing what’s happening in your children’s lives when they are at school is paramount to you being present as a parent. These few minutes a day is well worth the time and will prevent stressful situations that may develop in the absence of constant communication. Also stay in close communication with their teachers and meet with them early on in the school year to know the expectations and establish a good channel of communication.

Having your children finish up homework while you’re making dinner keeps you both occupied at the same time so you can enjoy some free time together after dinner. Even if it is only a few minutes between dinner and bedtime, play with your kids. It is good for them to learn – and see you modeling – the concept of “A time to work and a time to play.” Also, reading with them or to them when they are in bed is a great way to settle them for a restful sleep while also teaching them and spending quality time.

As a parent, you need to have your own time to recharge. Daily relaxation for at least twenty minutes, is my prescription to each one of you. Whether that be deep breathing, meditation, yoga, gardening, knitting, walking, tai chi or taking a bath, find something quiet, nurturing, creative and soulful. Remember that your children will watch you as their epitome of what they should and want to be. If you want them to be balanced adults and manage stress well as they grow up, be that example and do the same! Take the time you need to sleep well (8 hours!), let the laundry go, it’s okay if the living room isn’t perfect before going to bed, ask the kids to clean up their own rooms.

Lastly, ENJOY YOUR KIDS. They will be grown-ups soon enough and if you didn’t stop to watch them, enjoy them, and laugh with them, you would have missed out.
Dr. Meenakshi "Meena" Kumar is a Board Certified Family Medicine Physician at Visions HealthCare in Dedham, MA. She values all aspects of her patients and often prescribes "30 minutes of relaxation per day" as part of treatment. When not in clinic with patients she is treating people with Reiki or enjoying time with her 9 year old son.

You can visit her webpage here - http://www.visionshealthcare.com/author/meena-kumar/