Start now. Before the school year dawns upon you, make sure you have systems in place. Make sure your kids' room are neat and organized and ready to go. Make sure those itchy socks are out of the drawer and all the clothing your child prefers is on top of the drawer. Help your older child make a motivating morning playlist. Stock up on healthy food choices for both breakfast and lunch. Make sure school supplies are taken out of containers and in the backpack. Label all items.
Recognize that kids are different. If you have two kids, you may have noticed that one jumps out of bed easily and the other requires pleading. Don't resort to yelling when both of them need different way to guide them into their day. If you are constantly telling one to get dressed and they don't, maybe you are expecting too much out of that child. Consider the possibility that they need you to be present while they get dressed, at least for a little while. Temperaments vary wildly and you may need to adapt your routine to each individual child.
Routine, routine, routine. A routine is not only comforting to you, it sets up a predictable plan of action for all household members. It is extremely useful for everyone to be on the same page. Remember, the routine begins the night before:
- Make sure the environment is conducive to sleep: dark, cool and no electronics. (an app like Our Pact will shut off the wifi on devices at a certain time)
- Pack lunches if possible. Choose healthy options with protein to balance out carbs.
- Let your kids pick out their clothes and set them out. You may not agree with some style choices but appropriateness is your call.
- Set expectations; what time is wake up time, what needs to be done.
- Make sure homework is completed.
- You can even go so far as putting toothpaste on toothbrushes if you think that will help your child stay on course.
- Gently wake them. There are some slow lighting alarms which are helpful if your child is sensitive to noise.
- Low lighting. Fluorescent lights are harsh and unnecessary.
- Low noise. You can listen to soothing music in the morning. News can be upsetting.
- Please do not yank the covers off your child. It sends their nervous system into high alert which is not a nice way to awaken.
- Get yourself ready before you wake your kids. Competing schedules and bathroom time can wreak havoc on a morning.
- Choose a crunchy or thick breakfast. Crunchy cereals can be alerting to a drowsy brain. A thick smoothie sipped through a straw is organizing for a distracted brain, plus it's healthy and portable. Make sure there's protein in their breakfast to avoid a sugar crash at school. Choose a water bottle for school that they have to work a bit to sip.
- Realize that some kids need to move before school to organize themselves. Allow movement which includes heavy work (carrying your heavy laptop to the car, doing pushups for one minute, jumping up and down garage steps, be creative!)
- Some kids need a nice warm shower in the morning to help them get centered.
Keep yourself calm. If you want your kids to go to school calm and ready to learn, you need to cultivate that skill in yourself. In order to keep calm, some self care must be involved. Get some exercise. Remember to breathe. Have a sense of humor! If you are anxious and cranky, you could send them to school the same way. Wouldn't you rather them be calm and flexible? Having said that, there are some mornings that will go sideways no matter how well you plan. On those days, hone those same skills. Forgive yourself, and your child. A long, squeezy hug is always a good idea.
Some kids need rewards, and that's okay. You will hear some parents say to never, ever let your child watch tv in the morning. But you would be amazed how quickly some kids get things done if you offer a reward. For example, if you have to leave at 8am, tell them that if by 7:45 (no earlier) they have everything done, they can engage in an agreed upon activity such as hand held devices. Until they are completed their morning routine, they cannot be granted their privilege. Other kids don't need goals, they would rather sleep until the last possible minute. Still other kids are distracted and irritated from certain games. For those kids, make the reward be something different like earning points to a favored family activity like a water park.
Visual schedules can be very helpful. If you use a visual schedule, your child has to be able to follow it without you intervening. You can laminate it and leave in their room. Find some ideas here. A visual schedule can be extremely helpful but needs to be monitored and may need to change over the course of a school year.
Some mornings will be better than others, some days too, but you can rely on yourself to keep a stable and predictable morning routine. Feel free to share your ideas for helping make mornings go more smoothly. Have a great school year.