You’re doing your healthy back-to-school shopping, mapping out everybody’s schedules and vowing not to repeat last year’s always-ten-minutes-late chaos. But the 7 a.m. hour is a tough time to be a parent. Now that school is about to be back in session, what can you do to ensure the get-up, get-ready and get-out-the-door morning routine goes more smoothly? It’s all in the preparation.
Mornings will be calmer and more enjoyable when you start planning them the night before. Assess your current routine and start to incorporate one or two of the following tips at a time to make things easier on your kids and yourself this school year.
Prepare lunch: Figure out what’s for lunch, get the raw materials ready and prepped, and pack lunches in re-sealable sandwich bags or containers. All you’ll need to do in the morning is some final assembly and then hand the lunch to your child to put in his or her backpack.
Prep the morning coffee: What a treat to have your coffee brewed and ready for you when you wake up! Set your coffee maker to start brewing ten minutes before your alarm goes off.
Set your alarm: Set your alarm at least 20 minutes before your children wake up to allow a little “me” time. Even a few minutes of self-care can help you be more attentive to your kids’ morning needs.
Pack the backpack: Once all homework is completed, have your child pack it in their backpack with the books, supplies and permission slips they need for tomorrow. Place the ready-to-go backpack in its designated place, so there’s no last-second searching for it on the way out.
Choose what to wear: Help your child pick out appropriate clothes based on the weather forecast. Layers make it easy to stay comfortable--not too warm and not too cold.
Set alarm: Place the alarm clock across the room so hitting snooze and waking up late is not an option.
Bathe: Bathing the night before can take ten minutes out of the morning routine so kids can get up, wash their face to get the sleepies out of their eyes, dress, eat, and go.
Get enough sleep: School-age children need 9-11 hours of sleep. Start to have children wind down an hour before bed. Encourage reading or a quiet activity to help them slow down in mind and body to be ready for sleeping.
More stress-busting tips
Technology time-out: Digital devices distract from the task at hand. Turn devices off at least one hour before bedtime, and keep the morning a digital-free zone.
Storage/organization: Equip your entry with hooks or a child-sized coat rack, a bench and cubbies, shelves or baskets. No more scrambling to find a shoe, mitten or umbrella!
Dry-erase board: A dry-erase board that has the days of the week preprinted is a handy way to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Write important reminders on it: school trips, pick-ups and activities. Pick a time before or after dinner to review the board.
Create a chart or checklist (with images for younger children): Create a morning and evening list for kids to check off. Make it fun with stickers. Create a reward system based on experience-based incentives: a day at the zoo or amusement park, putt-putt or a craft class.
When/Then: Use Amy McCready’s When/Then technique to help your child learn the routine and keep them motivated. WHEN you make your bed, brush your teeth, and get dressed, THEN you can eat breakfast.
Schedule an extra five minutes: Ensure there are a few extra minutes to connect with your child for a wake-up snuggle or a little face-to-face time to discuss what they are excited about today.
As the parent, it’s up to you to prepare both yourself and your troops and set everyone up for success. These night-before tips, along with a morning hug and kiss goodbye, will set the school day off on the right foot … at least most mornings. As Sun Tzu said, “Every battle is won or lost before it's ever fought."