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Secrets for Stress-Free School Mornings

Getting your kids off to school can sap your energy and send you into the day already exhausted. Fortunately, there’s a better way! Establish a smoother, sanity-saving routine with these useful tips.

Getting your kids off to school can sap your energy and send you into the day already exhausted. Fortunately, there’s a better way! Establish a smoother, sanity-saving routine with these useful tips.

Figure out the timing

In order to create a realistic morning timeline, you need to know roughly how long it takes your kids to complete certain tasks. For a week or two, make it your business to keep a detailed log, noting how long it takes them to do morning-specific activities, such as getting dressed and eating a decent breakfast. This information will help you establish an overall framework and dictate how much time everyone actually needs to get out the door, which can help you plan effectively.

Come up with a comprehensive reminder checklist. Include everything a kid could need—backpack, lunch, cell phone, keys, instrument, sports equipment. Jot it on a dry-erase board or a piece of paper tacked to a corkboard by the door so you can easily update it when necessary.

Create a routine that works

Obviously, waking up is the first challenge. Buy alarm clocks with extra-loud bells or buzzers, and don’t even think about allowing the use of a snooze button—that’s a rabbit-hole no one should go down. Avoid music because it tends to quickly become white noise and lull the listener back to sleep. Don’t put the clock next to the bed. Instead, place it as far away as possible to force kids out from under the covers to turn off the alarm. Once they’re up, the odds that they’ll get moving increase exponentially. At that point, music can be invigorating. If your child needs an initial energy jolt, don’t be afraid to blast the tunes. 

If your kids seriously dawdle, try a technique that expert organizer Leslie Josel calls “billboarding.” First, place an analog (non-digital) clock in every room your kids use—yes, even the bathroom—so they can see the “sweep” of time. Place a large sticky note next to the clock with the time they need to be out of that room. Seeing the clock hands moving alongside the reminder of what time they need to leave the room will help keep your dawdlers on track.

Another expert tip: cede control whenever you can. Does your child like to brush teeth at the kitchen sink, or want to wait until she’s in the car to put on her jacket? Maybe it’s not what you would do or want them to do—but let them anyway. As long as kids are moving through their morning routine, give them as much control as possible. 

One of the best things you can do is set up a “launching pad” by the checklist near the door. It’s a dedicated space for packed backpacks, instruments, gym sneakers, library books—anything they will need to grab and go in the morning.

Prep the night before

Don’t wreck the morning with tasks that can easily be done the evening before. Have your kids choose their clothes, accessories, shoes, and even a coat. Get them to shower, too. If it’s a tough sell, point out that an evening shower can result in a little extra morning sleep. Together, double-check the launching pad to be sure everything is packed up and ready for the next day.

The night before is also a great time to prep breakfast. It might be as simple as placing yogurt at eye level in the fridge or putting protein bars on the counter. If your family needs to discuss anything about the next day, this is the time.

© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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