Just when your kids have adjusted to that lazy summer schedule -- staying up till all hours, sleeping the morning away, spending countless hours at the pool or on Facebook -- it's time to go back to school.
That means bedtimes and early alarms.
"Suddenly, our time isn't ours anymore," says Stacy Scott of Charleston. "This time of year, my calendar always fills up. There are as many back-to-school activities in August as there are end-of-school activities in May. Every day there is something else to squeeze in."
Between registrations, orientations, open houses, new seasons for sports, music lessons, church and Scouts, it's easy to understand how a family can feel harried.
At the same time, fall brings with it an opportunity for a fresh start.
"It's almost like another Jan. 1," says Scott, a mother of four. "I always find myself making resolutions. 'This year, we will get homework done in a timely manner,' or 'This year, we will eat dinner as a family more often.' And then I wonder how I am going to do those things."
For Angie King of North Charleston, it's all about living by the clock again.
"I dread trying to get the kids in bed at night and waking them up in the morning, especially those first few weeks," she says. "It's exhausting to me."
If you feel intimidated by what's ahead this school year, don't worry. There are plenty of things you can do to ease the stress of returning to a stringent schedule.
Here are some tips to make back-to-school time easier for your family.
Of course, this one may come across as a no-brainer, but the more organized you are, the smoother things will go.
For Scott, that means having a big family calendar and a system for organizing each child's important papers.
"I bought a big desk calendar and some markers," she says. "We write everybody's activities -- games, orthodontist appointments, everything -- on the calendar. If it's not listed there, it doesn't happen. Each day, we consult the calendar and try to figure out how to make it through the day, especially when we usually have to be two places at once."
To make the calendar easier to follow, each family member has a different color marker.
"That way, it's less complicated," she says.
She also has a filing system for each member of her family.
"We get so many schedules and papers that need to be filled out that it would be easy to overlook what needs to be done," she says. A file organizer hangs on a wall by her desk to keep papers organized.
"Everyone has two folders," she says. "One is for papers that need my attention and the other is for papers that I need to keep so I can refer back to them."
Planning ahead for mornings can help them run smoother.
"We take a few minutes before we start the bedtime routine to prepare for the morning routine," says Colby Ritter of Charleston. "It keeps us from being crazy in the morning."
Set the breakfast table before you go to bed, lay out the children's school clothes, and pack up that book bag.
"For a while, my daughter wanted to sleep in her clothes for the next day," she says. "I didn't see anything wrong with it and I let her do it. She eventually stopped on her own."
With so many after-school activities, it may be difficult to eat together every night, but some families still manage to do it.
According to a recent study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 59 percent of teens and 62 percent of their parents report having dinner with their families at least five times a week.
What's more, 65 percent of teens and 75 percent of parents say they would be willing to give up a weeknight activity if it meant they could have dinner with their family.
So how can you make that happen?
Well, you can plan ahead and you can be realistic.
Know that it's not going to happen every night, but designate a certain night as "family dinner night," or look at the calendar each week and find and schedule a night to eat together.
Plan the meals ahead, too, so you can shop on the weekend and don't have to rush to the store at the last minute.
Also, realize that it doesn't have to be a gourmet meal and doesn't even have to be at the dinner hour.
"Eating together is a priority for us," says King. "But sometimes we all eat something different, or we have frozen pizza or a rotisserie chicken I bought at the grocery store. We don't always cook that meal but we try to sit down together to eat it as often as we can. That's the important part."
King says taking time out for dinner keeps her family connected.
"It gives us a chance to talk about what's going on in our lives," she says. "Otherwise, it would be possible for each of us to come home and get busy with our own things and we'd never talk."
If you have the time, throw in a post-dinner family walk or bike ride and you can not only extend that time together but get some exercise as well.
--Save yourself some hassle and set limits on the TV, video games and non-school computer use. That will help your child stay on track.
--Designate an area of the house for homework. Stock the area with pencils, pens, paper and anything else your child will need to successfully complete his homework. The area should away from the TV and quiet, but in a spot where you can easily keep an eye on your child.
Brenda Rindge can be reached at 937-5713 or at email@example.com.