Health & Family

Skip the stress in back-to-school morning routine

A mother of three boys in Maryville, Tenn., noticed that her middle son, age 9, is having trouble adjusting to an early wake-up call for school now that the lazy days of summer are over.

He has been a little weepy and sleepy as his body clock resists a new 24-hour rhythm.

Ideally, a child's sleep habits have not gone haywire over the summer, and parents are able to back up bedtimes in 15-minute increments to reach the appropriate bedtime by the start of school.

Another mother, parenting educator Bonnie Harris, says she used to get into power struggles with her daughter every school morning and night.

“She was out to get me, being her grumpy, ornery self on purpose, as far as I was concerned,” recalls Harris, author of “Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You'll Love to Live With” (Adams Media, $12.95).

But Harris realized that her daughter's temperament made it tough for the child to make transitions – separating from mom, going to sleep, getting up, leaving the house and saying goodbye. When mom took into consideration that her child “had a problem” rather than was setting out to “be a problem,” everything changed, Harris says.

She dealt with her daughter with compassion instead of anger and helped the child adjust to transitions.

Her tips for a smoother morning:

Refrain from telling your child he's pokey, lazy, whiny, disorganized, bull-headed, crabby or any other disparaging label.

Start the day with calmness and hugs instead of yelling or threats to get children out of bed.

List with your children the challenges they face before school. For example, sharing the bathroom, getting dressed, having breakfast, remembering homework, packing the backpack, remembering lunchboxes and getting to the bus on time.

Help your kids come up with a plan for dealing with the challenges. For example, the slow mover may need to wake up 15 minutes earlier.

Write a contract to address each challenge with a procedure and consequences.

Other ways to transform stressful mornings:

Pick out clothes and make lunches the night before.

Remind children to get backpacks ready before the bedtime routine starts.

Establish a rule that homework is done the night before or it doesn't get done.