For some families, school mornings are a time when chaos reigns, tempers flare and tears flow. For others, it’s the best time of the day with happy and sleep-refreshed kids ready to meet the day ahead with a smile. What makes the difference? Planning!
If you want to smooth out your family’s morning routine and get everyone off to a good start on school mornings, get organized and start establishing some routines for your school-aged kids.
Prep the Night Before
Mornings are less stressful on school days if certain chores are taken care of the night before. Kids’ backpacks and book bags should be packed and placed near the door the evening before: check them to be sure you child has what he’ll need for the school day. If you keep a printed copy of the school’s monthly calendar, it’s easier to make sure that you send appropriate gear for special events and gym day, see that library books are returned on time, and have any necessary permission slips signed and ready.
Lunches should be made the night before with help from the child. Allowing kids to make some of the selections from appropriate food groups—choosing carrots or celery, an apple or a banana, and picking a sandwich filling—ups the chances they’ll eat their lunch and not toss it or trade it away.
Use the evening before to lay out school clothes for the next day. Autonomy is a big issue for school-aged kids, so let the child pick out two outfits as possibilities for wear the next day. If a favorite blouse or pair of jeans is in the wash, you’ll know in time to take care of it and avoid a morning melt-down!
Enforce a Reasonable Bedtime
If your kids wake up grumpy and have a hard time getting up and going, they probably aren’t getting enough sleep. Establishing an appropriate bedtime and enforcing it will help make mornings easier. Sleep-deprived children can’t concentrate and learn, and a continuing pattern of too little sleep is unhealthy for kids. Over time it causes their immune system to break down, making them more vulnerable to illness and infections. Positively managing the morning routine pays off for everyone!
Early to Rise
Adults should get up in plenty of time to get themselves organized, too. If a parent is rushed, it magnifies the problem for the children. Set a goal of having the children wake themselves up so the day can begin in a positive way. Purchase an alarm clock with an appealing chime or music of the child’s choosing, and help them set it for wake-up time that allows an unhurried morning routine. You may have to check that they are responding to this wake-up call, but praise them for showing good responsibility as this routine becomes habit.
Is it worth the struggle to insist that kids have a good breakfast every single day? Absolutely! Allow time in your own morning routine to sit and share the meal with them. They will learn to model your behavior and come to relish this quiet start to their day. Children who eat breakfast perform better at school, have improved attendance, are better behaved, more energetic, and have fewer issues managing their weight. Adults need a healthy breakfast too, so use this time together to get your own day off to a great start!