The summer holidays are still with us but the "back to school" junk mail has started to fill the letterbox. That's a sure sign there's only a couple of holiday weeks left.
The end of January can bring its own mix of feelings for both parents and youngsters. You might well feel ready to see them head off into someone else's care for five days a week and they might feel the excitement of a new school, new friends and new challenges.
But they might also feel nervousness about the changes ahead - a new teacher, perhaps separation from old friends; even fear if it means facing up again to a teacher or youngster that they haven't got on well with in the past. Be sensitive to this.
For parents it also means re-establishing routines after what's often a very casual summer timetable.
It's not a bad idea to ease into this the week before school starts. Get the TV viewing, wash, bed, and get up times in place. Unfortunately, the late summer heat or pleasantly long evenings don't make it easy. Bedtime might have to be edged forward in small increments during the week.
Mid-January's a good time to check that there's still a lunchbox and it still has a lid, the school bag is still intact, school clothes still fit, gear is labelled and there are some pens that work.
At some point run a refresher course for younger ones about bus safety, road safety, stranger danger and arrangements for after school.
If you want to get really organised, I've seen how a friend has set up a small wall planner calendar for school and afterschool activities along with space to pin school notices. Underneath is a box for their youngsters to post notices and forms for signing. The box system works most of the time. It's just a case of the kids remembering to use it, and their parents remembering to check it nightly!
What does seem to work is a small alarm clock set to go off 30 minutes before it's time to leave for school. But annoying when it's been left to go off on Saturday morning.
School morning panics can also be reduced by having clothes and lunches organised and school bags packed the night before.
Have a stash of freezable lunches for you and the kids for those days when nothing goes according to plan.
Establish a small fund of notes and coins for the days when they suddenly remember they need money and all you have in your wallet is plastic.
At the end of the day leave extra space in your routine to hear about those first few days back at school.
© Ian Munro 2014. All rights reserved.
- The Timaru Herald