Okay, so it’s back-to-school time and I’m already dreading the morning chaos. It goes something like this:
Wake up in the morning, nag my kids to get out of bed, complain that they aren’t eating their breakfast, repeatedly tell them to get dressed (after I’ve run around looking for matching socks). Then I inevitably wind up searching for my house keys and trying to find a pen to sign a form that needs to be submitted that day. By the time we head out the door (tripping over toys on the way), we are all harried, running late and feeling grumpy. Sound familiar?
In a desperate attempt to find a new, better way to start the day, I talked to professional organizers and experienced moms about how they handle the morning routine. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Create a checklist
Sit down with your kids and come up with a list of all of the things that need to be done from the time they wake up until the time you need to leave the house (you can do this yourself if you have younger children). Create a checklist for each child including times for each task that needs to be completed. Write out the schedule and hang it in a prominent place. For children who are not yet reading, use pictures to represent tasks, such as brushing teeth and putting on shoes. In the morning, if you see your kids getting off track, have them check the schedule to find out what they should be doing at that time. You can also use the kitchen timer to help keep your kids on schedule. “They can see the timer moving and they are much more aware of the amount of time that has passed,” says Rachel Rudman, a mother of two. Rudman also suggests a sticker chart to encourage younger children to stay on task. Give them a sticker for getting their morning tasks done on time.
Prepare the night before
One of the best ways to save time in the morning is to get as much ready as possible the night before. Set out your kids’ clothes or get them to pick out their outfits, including socks and shoes. Program your coffee maker to start brewing 10 minutes before you are ready to drink it. And set the table the night before with bowls, spoons and glasses for breakfast. You can also set your family’s favourite cereals out on the table. Some parents will even make the children decide the night before what they want for breakfast to avoid delays in making decisions or kids changing their minds. Have your kids put all homework and permission slips into their backpacks. Place the bags by the front door. Put all of your own belongings, such as keys and cell phone, in the same spot so that you can easily pick them up on the way out the door. You can also make lunches the night before and have them ready in the refrigerator. If you do not want to do this, at least write out a lunch menu for the entire week to help make packing lunches more efficient.
Give your kids responsibility
Look at your schedule and see which tasks your kids can be responsible for completing independently. Even a kindergartener can wake up to an alarm clock and get dressed by himself (although you might want to set out the clothes the night before). Older children, say ages 7 and up, can pack their own lunches without adult supervision. Remind them to clean up after themselves. You can also assign your kids some of the tasks that need to be done in the morning, such as feeding pets or turning off all of the lights in the house.
Spend quality time together
Try to spend at least a few minutes of quality time with your kids in the morning. Reconnecting with each other will help your kids feel loved and important all day. On mornings where time is short, you can make a point to sit together while eating breakfast. Instead of reading the newspaper, just talk with your kids. By starting the day enjoying each other’s company, you will find yourself calmer and less stressed about the morning rush.
After a few weeks of your new routine, sit down with your kids and talk about what is working and what needs to be changed. By working together, you can come up with a morning routine that gets you out of the house on time and starts your day off on a positive note.
Related read: How to deal with back-to-school butterflies