Young children with backpacks getting on school busit really be that time again? It seems like just yesterday I was writing about tips for a stress-free summer, and now back-to-school time is here with a whole set of new stresses.

While it’s natural for any time of transition to be stressful, there are steps you can take to lessen the toll on yourself and your family. Here are five tips that can help.

1. Accept Imperfection

It’s tempting for parents to try to make every childhood memory perfect for their kids. You can get so caught up in creating the perfect Christmas, the perfect birthday, and even the perfect first day of school that you forget to enjoy the moment for what it is.

Go ahead and set the bar a little lower. Those first days back at school, someone will probably forget a lunchbox, burn the classroom snack cookies, lose a permission slip or leave the house in mismatched socks. This is OK. Cut yourself some slack.

2. Call a Family Meeting

Be sure to keep it short, but everyone needs to be on the same page about new morning routines, schedules and responsibilities. Let kids know what to expect, and get their input, too. Keeping everyone informed can prevent meltdowns and unpleasant surprises in the future.

3. Remember Last Year

While you’ve got everyone together, take some time to reminisce about the last school year. Bring out photos and yearbooks. Talk to your kids about their good experiences from school and ask what they’d like to do this year. Thinking about the good times is a good strategy for combating depression and making this stressful time easier to take.

4. Don’t Over-schedule

Back-to-school time will also see the start of extracurricular activities like dance lessons, martial arts, youth sports or Scouts. Especially if you have a large family, scheduling everyone’s activities and transportation, plus making sure the family is fed and homework done, frankly, it’s a nightmare.

Encourage your kids to pick their favorite one or two activities and limit or ditch the rest. Also, don’t pressure your kids to do everything. That only leads to a stress for the whole family.

5. Take Time for Yourself

Parents, and moms especially, tend to ignore their own needs to provide for their kids. While this is the nature of parenting, you can go overboard. Be sure to take time to fill up your own reserve of self-care. If you don’t, you run the risk of running empty. A long, hot bath with a good book, taking in a movie by yourself, or getting a relaxation massage can all help you de-stress and restore your inner balance.

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