Tips for Less Stressful Mornings During the School Year
Feeling overwhelmed by stressful mornings on school days? With the start of the new school year, lazy summer mornings hanging out in PJs and watching cartoons are over. Even if your kids went to daycare during the summer, there is still something about the backpacks, lunches, papers, and homework that brings an extra level of stress to mornings during the school year.
And the nagging, oh the nagging! Do you have your homework? Did you grab your lunch? Put your shoes on! Get moving! We’re late!!!
Moms hate it at least as much as their kids do. And everybody starts the day unhappy. But you can change all that! Check out these simple school day hacks for stress free mornings to start your days off better this school year.
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School Day Hacks to Make Your Mornings Stress Free
1. Create a Morning Routine Your Kids Can Do Themselves (At Least Mostly)
The best way to make your mornings stress free is to plan your morning in advance. Figure out what needs to happen in your household in the morning.
And figure out what time you need everyone to be standing at the door ready to leave. Then build a morning routine from there.
On school days, the morning routine should include how and when everyone will get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and gather lunches, coats and bags. Everything you and your kids need for the day.
For less stressful school day mornings, streamline everything you can. And help your kids become responsible for getting themselves prepared for the day so it doesn’t all fall on you. Independence is your friend here.
My favorite tips for streamlining my morning routine and helping my young kids get themselves ready for school (while avoiding the nagging trap) came from the “Mornings” chapter of this Family Routines course, which has totally changed the way I run my household (and by changed, I mean it has ratcheted down the stress in my house a TON).
You can read my full review of the Family Routines course here.
Make a Visual Schedule for School Day Mornings
Once you’ve created a routine for your school day mornings. Go over it with your kids the night before. And give them a chart or a checklist they can use as they get things done.
A visual schedule or chart will help keep your kids on track with what they need to be doing. It also makes them accountable for getting themselves ready. And allows them to be more independent.
The key here is no more nagging. Instead of following your child around the house telling them what to do each step of the way while they get ready, they get to take charge.
Create a simple checklist for your child to carry around in the morning. A paper and pen work just fine or an inexpensive wipe off board.
You can also create a simple magnetic to do list for the morning. I love the one I made with my daughter pictured above. We used a cookie sheet, bottle caps & magnets.
The idea came from the awesome book, The Superkids Activity Guide to Conquering Every Day. A great resource for any kid that struggles with focus, moods, self-control, managing energy and much more.
2. For a Stress Free Morning Start the Night Before
Nothing makes a morning go smoother than preparing for it the night before. I try to do everything I possibly can the night before a school day morning.
I lay out clothes, pack lunches, I even line up my daughter’s hairbrush and hair bands on the counter.
I also suggest finding everyone’s shoes the night before and putting them by the door. I can’t count the number of times we’ve been late because of a missing shoe.
Get everything done ahead that you can. And line up everything else so you know exactly what you need to do and where you can find the things you need to do it.
If your kids tend to fuss about laying clothes out the night before or lay them out then want to change their mind in the morning, I have a solution.
A friend of mine suggested rolling pants and shirts together into outfits when she puts them in the dresser. So even if your child wants to make a swap at least they are swapping a complete outfit and not starting over from scratch.
I’ve actually taken this a step further and put entire outfits right down to the socks and underwear into gallon size Ziploc bags and lined them up in my daughter’s dresser. Every morning, she gets to pick a bag.
3. For Less Stress on School Mornings Make a List of What You Need
This step is included in your night before preparation for stress free mornings during the school year. Every night make a list for the morning. Actually two lists.
Make a list of everything you need to take with you when you leave for school and work. Put this on a sticky note on the door or somewhere you can’t miss it when you’re getting ready to leave.
Then make a to-do list for the next day of everything happening that day with times and activities. You may have this on your calendar, and that is great. But make sure you review it the night before to make sure nothing is going to pop up as a reminder on your cell phone that you had no idea was happening.
Years ago I took a course called Make Over Your Mornings in an attempt to get a handle on my busy mornings and feelings of overwhelm. For me, the course was life-changing. It led to all kinds of changes in my life that have made me healthier and happier every day.
And my two favorite takeaways from the Make Over Your Mornings Course were preparing for the morning the night before AND making a to-do list or schedule the night before.
If you ignore everything else on this list, try those two things for less stress in your mornings.
4. Avoid Stress at School Drop Off by Keeping Extras of Everything in the Car
This school day hack can save you a ton of stress when you’re having a rough morning. Stock your car with extras of everything you might need on a school day morning.
I suggest snacks in case of a missed breakfast, extra clothes in case of a spill or newly discovered tear, school supplies in case homework needs to be finished up in the car and pens for signing permission slips.
Keep an extra sweatshirt in the car for each kid for days they forget their coat.
I hate to be an alarmist but everything that can be forgotten will be at some point. Try to prepare and save yourself from having to turn around and go back home for anything.
You can also consider putting backpacks or coats in the car the night before, packed and ready if walking out the door with your hands full is too stressful for your family.
5. Set a Timer for Each Task Kids Need to Do to Get Ready for School
If nagging your kids to hurry up has become a regular part of your morning routine, consider setting a timer.
Kids dawdling when they get ready for school is a common problem. But it sucks to always be the one chasing after them nag, nag, nagging all morning. Take yourself out of that role.
Set a timer for a reasonable amount of time to accomplish tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth or eating breakfast.
Try making it fun and encourage your kids to beat the timer and get dressed fast! Or consider a natural consequence. If they aren’t dressed by the time the timer goes off, mom or dad will be picking out their clothes.
I get that a timer can seem too pressuring. But it works well with some kids who need a bit of extra motivation to stay on task in the morning.
6. Exercise Before School to Reduce Stress in the Morning
There is a commercial I keep seeing on Hulu that talks about how 20 minutes of physical activity wakes you up better than a cup of coffee. And there is science to back that up.
Now maybe you would just as soon have the coffee. But your kids will probably benefit more from a little exercise.
If your mornings are already jam-packed this may be hard to squeeze in but it can be well worth the effort.
See if you can get your kids moving in the morning with a little exercise. Not only will it get them going at home, but exercise in the morning can also increase focus and productivity at the start of the school day.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. If it’s a nice day, have them run around in the yard. Or put on some music and encourage your kids to dance.
Or check out the FREE GoNoodle app with songs and workouts designed for kids. My kids LOVE this app. And I secretly do too! The songs are great! Half the time my kids have to make room for me to join them rocking out to GoNoodle.
If you don’t have a device that allows you to play GoNoodle videos on your television, you can use this cord or one like it to screen share the app to your TV from your iPhone.
7. Keep the Distractions Out of Reach Until Kids are Ready for School
One of the fastest ways to derail your morning routine is for your kids (or you!) to get sucked into electronic devices.
I strongly suggest no television, phones, or tablets allowed until your kids are completely dressed and ready for school.
I’ve decided to hide my daughter’s Kindle in a secret location on school day mornings. Seriously. I don’t want to fight about it. It just won’t be available until she is completely ready to go.
We’ve all been in the position of trying to pry a device out of a kid’s hands when it’s time to go and they want “five more minutes” to finish a show or a game. Just don’t even let it get to that point.
If the devices become a problem even when you hold them back until your kids are ready to go but you still want to give them a little time in the morning, take advantage of parental controls.
Many devices allow you to set time limits or an automatic shut off time. You can use these to get the devices turned off a few minutes before you need to get in the car.
And obviously, if the issues are ongoing, no devices in the morning will have to become the rule. Let your kids read books if they get ready on time. It’s good for them!
8. For No-Stress School Mornings Put Everything in the Same Place. Every. Single. Day.
I mentioned before how many times my mornings have been derailed by missing shoes. The same can be said of coats, backpacks, my keys, etc.
There is a simple solution to this. Put everything away in the same place every single day.
You need a designated spot in the house for backpacks, coats, school supplies. And anything else that you might find yourself scrambling to find in the morning.
Help your kids get in the habit of putting things away when they get home. In the exact spot they will be able to find it the next morning.
You’ll find a stress free morning much more likely when there are no last-minute searches for the essentials.
9. Build in Some Bonding Time on School Mornings
We all want to start the day with our kids on a positive note. If you find yourself nagging and yelling your way through the morning in order to get everyone out the door on time, no one feels good about that. Not mom, not kids.
Stress free mornings on school days are the result of careful planning. Build some bonding time into your morning routine.
Even if you just take 5 minutes to cuddle and read a book, it can help you start the day with positive feelings between you and your kids.
If you want to include your kids getting some exercise in your morning routine, take a few minutes to dance or play around with your kids.
It’s the perfect way to have some fun together before you start the day. You may find you actually enjoy dancing to a few of the videos on GoNoodle with your kids before you head off to work.
Spending time together is also helpful if your child acts out when they need attention. Head off misbehavior by giving them a few minutes of your undivided attention before you go your separate ways for the day.
Be positive. Have fun. And don’t spend your day regretting the way you nagged or yelled at your kids in the morning.
10. Stay Calm for Less Stressful Mornings
You might have noticed that the more you ratchet up the intensity in the morning the slower your kids are to get ready.
Your rising anxiety and strident tone do absolutely nothing to inspire cooperation in your kids in the morning. I know, I’ve tried.
Cool down, Mama. It’s the only way. When you feel yourself getting too anxious and intense and notice your kids starting to resist take some deep breaths. Bring down the pressure.
When you’re a little calmer you can take a step back and more objectively see what you can do to help your child get moving on their morning routine so you can finish yours and get out the door.
This is a tough one for me. When I see the clock ticking and no one moving I tend to go into nagging overdrive. It has never helped. The faster I try to move the more mistakes I make.
You may still need to rush but try to do it calmly and with subtlety so your kids don’t feel the need to rebel against the pressure.
And you’ll start your whole day off better if you manage to keep calm during the morning.
Calmer Mornings Before School
If the thought of all of this pre-planning and routine making has you feeling overwhelmed, keep it simple.
The goal is to get everyone in your family out the door ready for the day. And to do it without yelling, nagging, or everyone feeling tense.
If making visual schedules or making to do lists or exercising in the morning all sound like too much. It might be for you.
Instead, focus on creating a simple morning routine that works for YOU and your family. Whether you write it down or just talk about it.
And maybe add in some of the extra stuff if you find yourself with extra time in the morning now that you don’t have to send out a search party for missing shoes.
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