That school start date always seems to inch closer and closer — until it’s already here. And while your children might be ready (or not) to hit the books again, many moms dread school when it means getting multiple kids out the door on time every single weekday.
For even more tips on how to get everyone ready in the morning, check out our 7 beauty tips that will take you from wake-up to makeup in no time at all, plus 10 ways to simplify your morning routine and get those kiddos out the door!
If this is an area where you struggle, especially dealing with several younger children, we completely understand. Every child has a different temperament, and for some, mornings will be tougher than for others — but for all your kids, you can use these five tips to create a stress-free morning routine for school that begins right after that alarm sounds.
1. Pregame with a family meeting
As growing kids struggle for more and more freedom and control of their lives, they need to feel as though they’re part of the process and decision-making in the morning, according to Mary Fristad, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral health, psychology and nutrition at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
“Sit down and have a family meeting to discuss how you all want mornings to go,” she explains. “All kids should be involved, whether they get up lickity-split or have a harder time.” This way, no one is getting special treatment and everyone is on the same page.
2. Make sure they get to bed at the right time
If a child doesn’t get adequate sleep, they’re more likely to end up cranky, sleepy-eyed, and uncooperative in the morning. Set a predetermined bedtime, and stick to it — even on weekends, if possible.
“Young children require an incredible amount of sleep,” says counselor and psychologist Karla Ivankovich, an adjunct professor for the University of Illinois — Springfield. “Children between the age of three and six often need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night, ages seven to twelve often need 10 to 11 hours,” she says. “The more variation a child has in their bedtime routine, the more difficult it will be to get them up in the morning.”
3. Break out the “I’m a Big Kid” chart
Decorate a laminated poster board together with each of your younger children, and dub this the “I’m a Big Kid” chart, says Ivankovich. The chart should be large enough for a child to lay out every step they need to get ready for the school day, whether it be in the morning or at night.
“This chart can include items that are necessary to have both prepared before bed and once the child wakes in the morning,” she explains. “While parents should encourage inclusion of the items that the child struggles with the most, the list should allow for children to feel as if they have had input into the process.” Complete the list for the entire week on Sunday evenings with enough time for parent and child to discuss any potential hiccups. We’ve provided a sample morning/evening routine here for you.
“I’m a Big Kid” chart layout
- Take an evening bath
- Set clothes out for the next morning
- Prepare their backpack, including putting completed homework inside
- Let Mom and Dad know any breakfast preferences for the week
- Brush teeth before bed
- Set a bedtime that can be consistent
- Set a time to wake up
- Depending on age of your child, this could possibly include learning how to use an alarm clock
- Brush teeth (without grumbling!)
- Get dressed and put shoes on
- Eat breakfast
- Grab backpack and lunchbox
4. Utilize “red socks/blue socks” decision-making
Kids want to make decisions, and it’s something you should allow them to do, says Ivankovich. Since they most want control in areas that will directly affect their lives right this second, they will often fight for the right to wear the clothing they like best.
“Offer children choices so they feel in charge,” she explains, which will help streamline their getting-ready process (while avoiding a no-tank-tops-in-the-winter struggle). “As a parent, we want what is best for the child — yet the child seeks to assert authority and autonomy,” she explains.
If your child is still indecisive, help with this line: “Would you prefer the red socks or the blue socks?” Ivankovich says this concept of emphasizing the child’s direct impact on the decision will help them make a more confident call. Complete clothing decisions the night before, if possible, check them off the “I’m a Big Kid” chart, and things should run smoothly.
5. If things go well, give them a reward; if things don’t run smoothly, address it later
You have to reinforce the behaviors you like, says Fristad. “If things go well and you get out the door easily in the morning, there should be a clear, positive reward — like 15 extra minutes to play before homework, for instance,” she explains.
“If things don’t go well, don’t punish them, but work on a tactic that will help correct the problem — like having them get to bed a half hour earlier since they groggy in the morning.”
Fristad also says you shouldn’t try to correct an issue right there in the moment. If your child is being fussy or puts up a fight, talk about it later. “Mention that the morning didn’t go well and you and your child both seemed upset, asking what they think is difficult about mornings,” she says. “Don’t compare one child to another, and don’t do problem-solving in the morning. Streamline your routine at night when you need to do so.”
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