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Exactly a year and a half ago, I wrote an article focused on how to stay organized with kids at home during the pandemic. Now kids are back in school, but there’s a “loss of learning” that kids and teachers are facing along with parental stress, teacher stress, and overall school stress as everything takes a different shape. The words “social-emotional stress” keep coming up in my conversations over and over … along with the words “mandates,” “divisiveness,” “loss of job,” “loss of colleagues,” “anxiety,” “stressed,” “teachers stretched so thin,” and “kids struggling to keep up.”

This all feels true and real in our educational world right now. That’s why, this year, I want to focus on stress management for kids — and adults. My theory is that the more organized and calm the morning is, the better we are set up for success. Nobody understands the hectic morning shuffle better than parents of kids. Our family is on that list. Our house is far from perfect, but we have learned a few key things that have helped us reduce stress and achieve some semblance of peace.

When I teach productivity and organizational skills to adults, I always end my course talking about starting each day in a “clean” way and setting yourself up for optimal success. The same is true for kids. Here are some ideas:

Prep is everything: School bag packed, shoes by the door, lunch and water bottle in fridge ready to go, clothes laid out, homework completed, and after-school sports gear ready to go for later in the day. This not only helps you as the parent so that you don’t have to deal with these items, but it’s also helping teach true life skills and build up that prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that plans, organizes, and looks ahead. Kids’ brains aren’t fully developed around these skills until their early twenties! So start now and help them learn this important life skill.

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Food: FUEL. IS. EVERYTHING. It’s impossible to get very far with an empty tank. Food is brain power and protein is king when it comes to fueling up that body for the day. Consider talking with your family and making a breakfast list together so you can pick something easy and quick each day that everyone has already agreed to. Spend some time on the weekend creating a meal plan for lunch and dinner. This can be super helpful so that you don’t have to wing it or run to the store because you don’t have something. Plan ahead! Get buy-in from the fam for those dinner meals so everyone is on board and the evening runs smoothly. If you have time, consider making double batches of dinner so you have leftovers. Who can turn down a Minnesota Nice Hot Dish? Just in case you didn’t know, I am from Minnesota … don’t ya know!

Focus on the positive: Let’s be honest, school and work and the morning hustle is a grind. As a parent, I know I can quickly go down the rabbit hole if things aren’t going exactly how I want or need them to go. I also know that I get more of what I focus on, so, as parents, if we can stay focused on the positive — even if it’s just one small thing — we will get more of what we put our attention toward. They tied their shoes, took the trash out, or had their bag packed and ready to go? Focus on that, not that they forgot to walk the dog. We will always get more of what we want when we focus on the positive.

These three simple concepts cover a lot of ground and should help your entire operation run more smoothly. It’s a tricky time, and everyone is doing the best they can, so give each other a break, say something positive, and be grateful that we’re — hopefully! — moving closer to more normal times! Happy Thanksgiving. I’m super grateful to be able to share my insights and tricks and tips with y’all each month. Now pass that corn soufflé and the rollies!

Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase workplace efficiency. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at

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