As summer winds to a close and families gear up to send kids back to school, it can be difficult for everyone to re-adjust to a school schedule. Parents and children alike often experience crazy morning routines filled with packing lunches, grabbing breakfast on the go, and getting everyone out the door on time. Nothing can set a negative tone for the day like the family frenzy that happens in millions of homes across America as parents and kids battle each other to get ready for school and work. Luckily, with a little planning and preparation, it is possible to take the crazy out of those back to school mornings – or at least most of it! Following just two simple strategies can mean the difference between a rocky start and smoother sailing.
Decrease the Morning Workload
In order to make getting everyone out the door as stress free as you can, save as little as possible to do in the morning. This doesn’t mean that you should give the kids a kiss and push them out the door with no lunch, wearing the same clothes they wore the day before. Instead, it means that you should do as much as possible the night before to help you prepare for the morning rush. Good tips to follow include:
- Wake up earlier to allow more than enough time to comfortably get through the morning routine. Hitting the snooze button can feel good for a few minutes but can result in a rush to get out the door on time. Even five minutes of free time for all family members in the morning can help set a positive tone.
- Prepare lunches the night before.
- Make sure that homework has been done and is safely stashed in the child’s book bag, notebook, or folder instead of on the desk or under the bed.
- Lay out the day’s clothes the night before to avoid battling with the family fashionista in the morning.
- Ask to see all papers relating to school the night before so that you aren’t trying to drive and sign a Field trip permission slip at the same time.
- Make breakfast quick, but nutritious. Plan the morning menu and lay out bowls and utensils the night before.
- Consider keeping a container or cubbyhole for each family member near the front door, and make sure that everything that will be needed the next day is ready and waiting the night before. Eliminate the need to search for keys, shoes, cell phones, or stray mittens when you only have two minutes to get out the door.
Get the Kids on Board
Recruit the help of those who are often responsible for the morning’s biggest hassles – the kids. It’s hard enough to get yourself up, out of bed, and prepared to face the day. Add an uncooperative kid or two to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a morning that even a stop at Starbucks for a triple espresso won’t straighten out. But those same little schedule-zappers can be your biggest source of assistance in eliminating the morning madness.
Children are great morning helpers when they know exactly what to do. If lunches are a constant source of conflict, work with your child the night before to pack a lunch on which you can both agree. Use this same tactic for selecting the day’s clothes. Arguments over the favorite shirt that has been pulled out of the dirty laundry hamper are never pleasant. Whether your child wears a school uniform or is free to dress as she likes, make sure that everything is clean and ready to put on in the morning. Enlist your child’s help when selecting the next day’s outfit.
As a way to get younger children to follow a morning routine, try making a chart detailing what they have to do in the morning. Use lots of visuals and be specific. Your chart doesn’t have to be pretty, but it should be fun. Make cartoon drawings or use pictures of kids getting dressed, brushing their teeth, eating breakfast, and gathering their coats, lunches, and book bags by the door. Make your chart on a large piece of poster board, and number each step in the order that you want your little helpers to perform them. Using pictures makes it easy for even very young children to develop and follow a routine. Hang the chart in the kitchen or a place where it can easily be referred to.
Taking the crazy out of back to school mornings may be as easy as a little preparation and engaging the kids to help themselves, leaving each family member free to have a better day.