Back to School stress-busting tips.

The Athlete's Foot
Thanks to our brand partner, The Athlete's Foot

My mind is a bit of a scramble at the start of the year and for the first time since my kids started school they’ll be attending three separate schools. My babies, scattered to the winds.

Please don’t tell Philip, 12, I referred to him as one of ‘my babies’. He’ll get so cranky because he’s starting high school and whenever the mood strikes him, expects to be treated like a grown up. Unless he’s feeling sick or having trouble sleeping, in which case he still snuggles up next to me like a little, 12-year-old baby…

Three different schools means three separate lists of ‘requisites’, three different uniforms and three separate newsletters to read.

The only way I can begin to sort my way through all the things I have to buy and get done before the school year begins is to make lots and lots of lists, otherwise I’m going to forget something crucial and my children are going to suffer. Plus I’ll lose my “perfect mother” crown that takes a bit of a battering during the school terms.

I’ve been a school-mum for 12 years to three children, the aforementioned Philip, 12, Giovanni, eight, and Caterina, seven, so I’ve learned a thing or two.

Here are all of my tips and tricks to help you save time, save money, avoid too much stress and get you and your family all the way through to the start of the school year in one piece.

1. School uniform checklist.

It’s nice for kids to have new school uniforms for the start of primary and secondary, but any other year and it’s just a waste of money. I learned the hard way not to bother buying brand new uniforms for my children if I could help it. They are so expensive and get ripped and torn and scrapped and shredded, particularly boy’s uniforms. It’s enough to make you cry.

At the end of each year go through your children’s uniforms and figure out what they really need for the following year. Then access second-hand uniforms through school parent friends or the school uniform shop. There’s even websites that organise the buying, swapping and selling of normally pricey school uniforms such as The Uniform Exchange and School Seconds.

2. Buy school supplies now.

Kids starting primary and secondary school deserve bright and shiny new stationary and school supplies but for every other year, go through what they already have and only buy what they need. Take advantage of any sales and if you find a good deal, stock up because you’ll need to replenish their supplies throughout the year.

Schools provide you with specific requisite lists that start out quite small and grow dramatically as the years progress. In Kindergarten I only needed to get my eldest a few lead pencils and some wind-up crayons. His high school requisite lists an iPad! But I got off easy because some of the parents have to buy their children laptops.


Back to simpler times when all you needed was some pencils. Image: iStock.

3. Lunchbox wars.

Children's tastes in foods change like the wind, or, at least they do in my house. If you involve your kids in the process of choosing which foods you are going to pack they are more likely to eat their lunch.

It also helps if they choose their own lunchboxes and water bottles. There are some pretty high-tech water bottles out there, including ones that spray out a stream of water. Simple water bottles are best and buy two of them each because it's highly likely they'll lose one at some stage.

Depending on how often you do the grocery shopping, have a chat to your kids about the foods they like and dislike so you can keep all of their favourites on-hand.

Once you know what they like it's easy to pack their morning tea and lunch a week ahead by labelling and packing brown bags so you just have to add a piece of fruit each day, and freezing sandwiches.

4. School shoe payment plans.

There's no worse feeling in the world as a parent than not being able to afford to give your children the best. I want my children to have the best, most comfortable and sturdiest school shoes possible but when each child needs two pairs each - one black pair and one sports pair - it adds up quickly.

Plus, kids grow, especially just after you've bought them new clothes or shoes. Have you ever noticed that? Thankfully The Athlete's Foot has "AfterPay," a handy "buy now pay later" option and knowing that's an option is so comforting.

This may be the year I use it because I have to buy two new sets of uniforms for two new schools and top up my daughter's school uniform at our existing school.

Last year was the first time I took my children to The Athlete's Foot for their school and sports shoes and it was so much fun because each of them got to walk on FITZI® which measured their gait among other things, giving the fit technician all the info they needed to make sure Philip, Giovanni and Caterina were as comfortable as possible.

They have this great brand called Ascent which looks like a school shoe but feels like a sports shoe. Caterina got those and loved them. Giovanni has a really wide foot so we had to get him two pairs of New Balance, one in black and one in white.


Philip stuck to his Clarks because they are what he is used to and they are 20 per cent off in January.

Jo Abi's three children. All school-aged and all in need of shoes. Image: supplied.

5. One-on-one time.

It can be easy to get caught up in the back to school whirlwind and your children can get caught up in it too. Before you know it, you're dropping them off to school or walking them to the bus and then you either go home to a very quiet (too quiet) home or rushing off to work.

I love to spend one-on-one time with each of my children regularly but particularly a week or two before they start school. They take turns coming grocery shopping with me and I even book their haircuts and sometimes their shoe fittings separately, so if they are nervous or anxious or want to ask any questions about the school year ahead they can.

6. Practice anything new.

If you buy your children new uniforms or different lunchboxes and water bottles or their first pair of lace shoes make sure your spend lots of time practicing opening them and closing them and even using them.

Get them all dressed up in their new uniforms and shoes and take some photos. Practice packing and unpacking their school bags. You may even want to give them their lunch in their new lunchboxes one day.

The new school year can be scary and some children are hesitant to ask for help with such things when they need it, particularly if they are at a new school with different kids and a brand new teacher.

If they are used to their uniforms, lunchboxes and water bottles they'll be more confident on that first day and might even make some new friends by helping kids struggling with their own things.

How do you nail back to school shopping?

This post was written thanks to our brand partner The Athlete's Foot.