It’s been almost three years since I made a personal vow to take the stress out of our school morning routine and banned myself from saying (or more often, growling) the words, “Hurry up!” I cannot tell you what a difference it has made to our mornings.
Do I now look forward with a smile to the super busy start of school day mornings? Well, no, not particularly. Does it feel somewhat repetitive? Just. Every. Single. Day. Do we leave the house victorious, exchanging high fives with the sound of an angel choir singing ringing in our ears? Umm, no. But we do leave the house feeling much more ready and relaxed (me), much more prepared and positive (them), with a lot less hustle and stress (us) and on time (for the most part). And we’ve learnt a number of lessons about the causes of unnecessary stress on school day mornings along the way – here are my top five!
Stress #1 You aren’t being realistic about time: Pick a wake up time and stick to it. Purchase an alarm clock for each person if need be. When choosing your wake up time, be realistic about how much time you need to get everyone ready and out of the house without rushing. Don’t set yourself up for failure before you’ve even begun by not leaving enough time.
Stress #2 You haven’t established a consistent morning routine: I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our simple but consistent school morning routine. My girls get up and they know the deal. They know what to expect and they know that there is VERY little chance that mummy will change the routine so there is absolutely no reason to ask to put on the TV before breakfast.
If your routine is currently non-existent, I suggest starting out by making a list of each thing that needs to be done to get everyone ready and off to school. Consider whether any of these tasks would fit better into your (or the kids’) evening routine the night before. In what order will the morning’s tasks flow most smoothly? Who is responsible for each? Once in place, be consistent, especially in the early days, and get the kids on board.
We have a set of simple picture cards that set out the girls’ routine, step by step. You can print a copy here.
Stress #3 The kids aren’t pulling their weight: I believe the key to getting the kids doing their part is putting in place systems that set them up for success. As well as our routine cards, we have a weekly activities calendar and packing list displayed in our school bag area. Uniforms are kept all together in a central plastic tub and laid out the night before. Shoes are kept in a basket by the front door. Hair brushes, spray and hair ties have a tub too. Library bags, music books, diaries are all stored in the same place each and every day. Just as they are clear about the routine, my girls know exactly what their morning responsibilities and are responsible for getting them done. Again, because we do it the same way everyday, it’s much less stressful and when they do need reminding, it’s much more likely to be a re-direction to look at their chart or list to keep them moving.
Stress #4 Your expectations are too high: Of course, #3 above only works when you keep the to-do list realistic. Unless you have more than an hour to get everyone ready and out the door, adding a whole list of additional chores to the morning is sure to add stress and tension. Obviously there will be non-negotiables, such as feeding the family pet, but if you are short on time leave as many of the chores until after school/work as you can.
Stress #5 There are too many distractions: We have a clear rule that there is no time for play until everyone is ready for school. If they drag their feet, my girl’s miss out on having any free time before we leave…and they both really value a little free time at the start of the day, even if it is just five minutes. We also have a no screen time rule before school. Keep distractions to a minimum to help everyone get out the door on time.
Most of all, remember you don’t need to be Supermum but things are more likely to go to plan when you are involved. Some mornings will be smooth, others not so much. And whichever morning you’ve had the most important thing to remember to include is time for hugs and kisses!