Are back-to-school mornings already a dreadful, hectic mess? If you’re like a lot of parents, your child’s morning routine looks like “one shoe on, where’s the other shoe, pet the dog, miss the bus.”
Mornings go more smoothly when expectations are spelled out ahead of time and broken down into steps. One Charlotte mom is using visual and auditory clues to get her child going in the morning. For example, she put up pictures in the bathroom to help her daughter remember all the steps for hand-washing and teeth-brushing. Simple but effective, she says.
Another family uses an egg timer to divide the morning into 10-minute increments to keep their distractible daughter on track.
Parents say that mornings are generally the most stressful time of the day, and the time when they are most prone to yelling, says Michele Borba, educational psychologist and author of “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions” (Jossey-Bass, 2009). She suggests identifying your biggest recurring stress trigger and then creating a simple solution. For instance:
• Do you misplace your car keys and go bonkers trying to find them every morning? Put up a hook by the door to hold those keys.
• Do your kids miss the bus because they can’t find their homework? Put a “homework catcher” box by the door. They put their homework with their backpacks the night before, not in the morning.
• Do you have a little dawdler? Have him put his clothes out the night before and teach him to set an alarm clock.
If you’re a helicopter parent, now’s the time to change. Borba suggests parents identify tasks their children can do, such as making their own lunches, without always relying on mom or dad. Adopt a new motto: “Never do for your child what your child can do for herself.”
If your family is slow to get going before school, look at how much sleep everyone is getting. That goes for parents, too.
Many school-age children are over-scheduled and are not getting enough sleep. Their parents aren’t, either. Chronic sleep loss makes parents more easily irritable and less able to deal with typical morning annoyances. According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers typically sleep 11 to 13 hours each night and usually don’t nap after age 5, while children aged 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep.
Bump your child’s bedtime back in 15-minute increments to gain snooze time and get off the summertime night-owl routine.
Also, don’t skip breakfast; just keep it quick and simple, such as a smoothie. Think grains, plus dairy, plus fruits. Kids need the brain food or they wilt. Studies show that students who eat breakfast are more likely to achieve higher grades and pay closer attention in school than kids who skip the morning meal.
When your child comes home from school, don’t expect him to have much to say about the day. Instead of a barrage of questions when he walks through the door, try a “welcome home” and offer a snack. He’s more likely to feel like chatting at dinner and bedtime. Learn his new school schedule – music’s on Wednesday, a field trip is coming up – so you can ask specific questions. Volunteering at your child’s school is a great way to know what’s going on, too.
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, is a mother and preschool teacher. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-236-9510.