5 Ways You’re Unnecessarily Adding Stress to School Day Mornings

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!
5 Ways You're Possible Adding Unnecessary Stress to School Day Mornings - avoid school day stress by avoiding these 5 stressors!

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.

5 Ways You're Possible Adding Unnecessary Stress to School Day Mornings - avoid school day stress by avoiding these 5 stressors!

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.

5 Ways You're Possible Adding Unnecessary Stress to School Day Mornings - avoid school day stress by avoiding these 5 stressors!

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!

You might also like:

Printable school bag packing list. Get organised for back to school.


  1. We have our school mornings down to a fine art… but high school next year is going to ruin everything!
    I am scared about how we’ll manage mornings when there is a bus to catch and a much earlier wake up time… almost as scared as I am about how we’ll pay for the school we’ve chosen, so I’m off to have a play with that website!

  2. Somehow this morning I manage to get both kids out the door, dropped one at preschool then even had time for a babycino with Miss 5 at a cafe! I’m not quite sure how I did it, but I’m going to be putting some of these tips in place to make it happen again!

  3. Good tips here! We are pretty much always on time and relatively stress free to school and it’s because of a lot of things you mention. Getting up earlier is a big one!

  4. We plan on sending out children to a private school at some stage of their schooling, as I did myself and loved the private school I attended, but it will always come down to what we can afford. Thank you so much for sharing that incredible link to the ANZ school ready report. We now have a much clearer idea of what we will need to save for.

    1. It really provides interesting insight, Kate. So glad you found it helpful.

  5. these are fantastic tips!!!! preparation is key, huh! ‘work first; play later’ is our school morning motto, definitely agree w all these tips! the Anz advice is super helpful as we are also planning on a private highschool for the kids.

  6. Great tips but what I really loved is your first comment about banning yourself from saying Hurry up! I think saying Hurry up stresses everyone and it probably doesn’t make any difference to how quickly everyone gets ready!

  7. That sounds like a very handy website! I’ll have to check it out. Our mornings are usually pretty rushed but it’s amazing how a bit of ipad time after getting ready can motivate a child to actually get ready, lol.

  8. I totally agree with your morning tips. Being realistic about how much time it takes everyone has been key for us getting ready for various events in time… and this is also relevant to me, as it takes ME longer to get ready when I’m also getting the kids ready! LOL I am absolutely terrified about choosing high schools for the kids, so this report is going to be a useful resource to play around with, thank you.

  9. I may be clutching at straws here, but you mention you have a separate place for “hair brushes, spray and ties”? What do you mean by “spray”? Are you applying something to the girls’ hair to prevent head lice moving in? What are you using?

    I may be asking because of Reasons… serious Reasons…

    1. I use a detangling spray and a water spray, mostly because of my daughter’s thick, wavy hair that tangles easily. If head lice are a problem in your area, I suggest putting a little hair product in your child’s hair each day – mousse or hair spray, and keeping it tied back as much as possible. In my teaching days, these were always the best defences. Good luck!

  10. I loved this article. Our mornings are usually rushed, mainly because of time mis-management. I have seen that we have much calmer mornings when we are up half an hour early.

  11. Qualitykg says:

    Inflexible routine is the best way to be on time always and after a time your body get habitual of it and work accordingly.

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