How to succeed with a school morning routine

School morning routine tips for parents

Ah, back to school! We love it and we hate it, right? Because no matter how ready we are to have the kids back on a schedule, that means WE have to be scheduled, too! Morning person or not, working outside the home or not, we have to set that alarm and get going on school mornings. But getting up, ready for school, and out the door doesn’t have to be a chaotic, stress-filled daily event. It CAN be (relatively) painless, most of the time. Here’s how.

Visualize your ideal school morning routine:

Does it involve the smell of coffee brewing, a little bit of quiet time with your thoughts, the birds chirping, and leisurely time over the news? Or maybe quality one-on-one time with your Peloton? Wait: you remember you have kids now, right? Visualize again, this time taking into account what is required in your household in order to get out the door without chaos. Maybe for your family, this requires waking the kids later, so there is time only to get ready and go. Or, maybe it means waking them early, so everyone can have time to slowly roll out of bed, or there’s time for some extra homework help or a TV show. There’s no one correct answer.

Put yourself first:

You know the adage about putting on your mask before your kids’? Do that every day of your school morning routine. Get yourself up and ready first, if that means building in time to read the paper or take that spin class. You’ll be more relaxed, less anxious, and less stressed if you’re not trying to get yourself ready for your day at the same time as the kids.

Begin your routine the night before:

Your school morning routine actually begins the night before. Dedicate a time (perhaps after dinner, perhaps before bathtime) when you ask your kids if there is anything they are anxious about for the day ahead. Then ask if there is anything they NEED for the day ahead. We’ve all been there, pouring cereal with one eye on the clock when our kid decides to let us know he needs 25 empty toilet paper rolls for art class that day. Let’s try to avoid this if we can! Parents can also prep school lunches the night before, and keep backpacks and homework all in one place…preferrably by the front door.

Part of your school morning routine is getting a good night’s sleep, too, which means your kids need a consistent night-time routine as well. Go to bed at the same time every night (even weekends, ideally), with screen-free time before lights out. Read to your kids during this period, or allow older kids to read to themselves silently until bedtime.

Give kids choices, but not too many:

School-aged kids need autonomy, so it’s fine to give them basic choices as part of your school morning routine. For instance, “Do you want school lunch today, or a packed lunch?” Or, “Do you want a bagel today, or a sandwich?” Try to avoid open-ended questions during the busy morning, however, such as “What do you want in your lunch?” Ditto for their clothing…do you want to wear shorts or long pants today…do you want your sweatshirt or your fleece jacket?

If screens are involved in the morning routine, set hard boundaries:

Some kids really do seem to need that 30 minutes of zoning out to their favorite TV show as part of their routine, and hey, if it gets you all to school without tears, that’s okay. But resist allowing TV or other screentime to be the FIRST thing kids do upon waking up. Instead, it could be the last, after dressing, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and ensuring that their backpacks are ready to go. Build in time for this.

Give yourself a buffer of time:

No one wants to be stressed in the morning! Add in a buffer of at least 15 minutes to your morning routine, to ensure you can move slowly, not rush, and stay calm. If you do hit a snag and tempers flare or discipline is needed, the natural consequence to a tardy may be that your child will need to wake up 15 minutes earlier the next morning. It’s better to be late than to add to stress and anger with yelling, bribing, or letting your own stress levels rise, too.

Be consistant:

If you have a child with special needs, you already know how important consistency is. But it’s needed for everyone when it comes to a school morning routine. Keep it the same every day (taking into account any tweaks you may need to make in the first week or so, as you all adust).

Have a wonderful school year!

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