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Whether you love back-to-school (kids out of the house!) or it adds to your stress level (the shopping, the planning, the daily struggles), it’s one of the more challenging times of year to find balance. While nothing can eliminate all of the work it takes to get to that first day, we’ve found 15 pretty genius tips to get you a step closer to a strong start to the school year. Now, before you start punishing yourself because meal planning isn’t top on your to-do list, hear this: we’re not suggesting that you do all 15. Give yourself permission to pick a couple for this year, or just pick one. Maybe this is the year you set up an after-school snack station or create a daily action plan for each of the kids. Focus on what truly adds to your parenting life and let the rest go for another time.

This is also the time of year when the volunteer sign-up sheet is passed. Writer and mom Christina Katz has seen her share of school volunteer hours and shares her own advice for managing volunteering without overcommitting or feeling overwhelmed. One of my favorites? Start small, then add more as time allows.

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Noticing a theme? Yep. It’s ok not to do it all. School will start, ready or not. Lunches will get made, kids may wear dirty socks, and another parent may chaperone the field trip to the museum. Through it all, your child will still love you, even if they ask you not to hug them at first-day drop off.

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