After weeks of lazy summer days devoid of structure or schedules, getting back into the daily school routine can be rough for both kids and parents. This year, I polled a bunch of moms on The What Women, a female community on Facebook, to share their secrets to successfully navigating school mornings with as little stress as possible. These wise moms provided some great, practical, and surprising tips (many of which I plan to use myself).
Tip #1 — Prepare the Night Before
This was an almost universal sentiment amongst the moms I polled. Pack lunches, take showers or baths, assemble backpacks and set out kids clothing. Put shoes and socks by the door. Address any homework questions, permission slips or anything else school-related in the evening, so there are no panic situations in the morning.
Tip #2 — Make Kids Accountable for Doing It Themselves
Stacy Weinberg Dieve from San Anselmo posts a check list on her kids closet doors with items such as getting dressed, making beds and brushing teeth. The kids are required to follow the lists—and Mom doesn’t have to keep barking out orders.
Tip #3 — Create a Breakfast Mini-Menu
When her kids were young, Trish McDermott from Orinda crafted printed menus to look like the ones used for hotel room service, and put them on her kids’ bedroom doors each evening. The kids “ordered” breakfast from the mini-menu. This eliminated any discussions on what will be served for breakfast the next day, and Mom knows what to prepare in advance.
Tip #4 — Do Everything First, Then Eat Breakfast
Along the lines of keeping kids accountable, Linda Hepp from Tomales has her kids do all the prep work first—getting fully dressed, making beds, even brushing teeth—before eating breakfast.
Tip #5 — Have Kids Sleep in Their Clothes
It might seem a little extreme, but why not? Forget pajamas, just have the kids sleep in whatever they are going to wear the next day in order to skip the step of getting dressed.
Tip #6 — Organize Your Week on Sunday
Plan your meals for the week, including packed lunches. Look at the weather forecast, pick out clothes and prep lunch items. “It puts us all at ease, knowing what we have to do,” comments M.J. Benson from Portland, Maine.
Tip #7 — Set an Alarm
It’s always helpful to have an audible reminder that everyone needs to get going. Lisa Colman Poncia from Novato suggests setting an alarm about 15 minutes before departure time. Her alarm plays a fun song and her kids know that when that song plays, they better make sure they are finishing up and getting ready to go.
Tip #8 — No Matter What, Resist Arguing
A morning tiff is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Andrea Willard Cowart from Middlesex, North Carolina points out, “Even if there is a discipline issue or a disagreement, save it for the afternoon. You want them to focus during the day and an argument just before heading to school will be a detriment to learning. Just don’t forget to come back to the issue later!”
Tip #9 — Get Up Early Yourself
While this can be challenging if your kids are early risers, many moms said that they had their best mornings if they were able get up and get dressed before their kids woke up, and even squeeze in a cup of coffee. “If I am chill, it helps us all!” says Kim Hoffman Miller from Oakland.
Tip #10 — Approach the Week with Intention
This is a great practice any time of the year, but is especially useful for the chaos that often comes when classes start. Paige Vrurpillat from Kingsville, Texas has her family get out the calendar each week and discuss all commitments and engagements of each person, as well as verbalize their intention to make it a great week together as committed family members. “It doesn’t matter how old the kids are, they will start attaching accountability to their words,” she says.
A freelance writer in Marin who writes about family, kids and parenting, Glass is the mother to one son, one dog and a hamster named Miss Geri. When she’s not writing, trekking up steep hills in Marin or driving her kid to sports practice, she and her family spend time in their tiny cabin in Lake Tahoe. She avidly supports the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and the Institute on Aging which provides much needed services to Bay Area seniors and disabled adults. Glass is obsessed with baking the perfect loaf of banana bread, something she makes so often she no longer needs to look at a recipe card.