How to Make School Mornings Easy: Parents Share Time-SavingTips

How to Make School Mornings Easy

How to Make School Mornings Easy: Parents Share Time-Saving Tips

It’s officially back-to-school season, which means everyone’s least favorite weekday activity is about to resume. No, I don’t mean homework time. Not driving from one afterschool activity to the next either. I’m talking about those dreaded school mornings! 

I’ve been getting my kids ready for school for over a decade and I have yet to master the art of the easy morning. I’ve had days when I got everyone out the door with time to spare, only to waste 15 minutes looking for a shoe or car keys. I’ve had mornings when one child is ready for school super early while I need a blow horn to wake their sibling. It just seems like no matter how hard I try, school mornings are a nightmare.

Instead of talking to professionals for help with my morning madness problem, I turned to the REAL experts: other parents. I feel like when you ask for real advice from real people, you get real answers. Well, some were just real-ly funny – wine before 8am sounds great until you’re hungover and helping with homework; it’s a little late to not have kids in the first place; and boarding school is not in my budget – but most of the moms and dads I spoke to offered up tips that are downright helpful. 

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Routine, Routine, Routine

The consensus appears to be that routine is key. It’s no secret that kids thrive on routine, so mornings should be no different. Once you fall into a routine that works for everyone, half the battle is won. 

Mom of two boys Carissa Clarke says routine is the only thing that works for her family. “Routine for all of us works so well,” she tells me. “Clothes are put out the night before. [In the morning, the kids] put on everything except their shirts. Then they eat and brush their teeth. Shirts on and done in less than 30 min. Then they are free to do what they want until it is time to leave. Lunches are made the night before for easy grab and go. It’s discipline for us parents too.”

Jennifer Lyons relies heavily on routine to keep her mornings hassle-free. “Kids get blindsided all the time with no heads up. Imagine living like that, being dictated to all the time on the fly with no heads up,” she points out. “I love master checklists for things that happen consistently. It takes the mental load of thinking and trying to remember. Try to stick to the same order of events so it becomes routine. If your kids know they have {a specific} time to get up each weekday they will get used to the routine. Follow the same procedure every morning, after school and at bedtime.” 

Getting Frustrated Dressed

It takes, quite literally, less than a minute to get dressed. So why is this so often the hardest part of the entire morning?

Amy Cogan lets her kids be part of the process without sacrificing precious time in the morning. “Make them pick out two outfits the night before. Then they still feel like they have a choice but not so much choice you never get out the door,” she said.

Jessica Zeehandelar picks her battles, and clothing choice isn’t one of them. “Don’t fight with your kids over their attire unless it is inappropriate or it is a special day at school like costume day or PJ day. Let them choose. Lay the clothes out the night before, not the week before, so they’ll be less likely to change their minds.”

Teresa Gee shared a cute idea for those who want to save time all week long. “I saw someone with a great hack. They bought one of those hanging cloth shoe racks and they picked out their outfits for five days, burrito-rolled them and put them in each slot. What a great idea!” This time-saving technique would also work with one of those vertical hangers that hold multiple articles of clothing.  

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

It’s not rocket science: prep the night before and get up early to give yourself more time to get things done – your morning will run smoothly! Easier said than done, though.

Like many people, Christina Aspinall’s motivation for an early start is the caffeinated kind. “Prepare everything the night before. Wake up before the kids and have coffee in peace,” she says. Personally, I can attest to this advice. That calm-before-the-storm serenity of early mornings before everyone is up is often the best part of a busy parent’s day.

Leigh Ann’s hopes are high for school mornings this year but she’s keeping expectations low. “I’m going to try having the kids have their clothes laid out on Sundays for the week and also have their breakfast options written down so they know what to expect and not say that there is nothing to eat,” she says. “The options will be cereal, eggos, pancakes or some type of bagel. I’m hoping it works. At this point, it will be successful if they aren’t eating cookies and milk for breakfast.”

Christopher Canale’s family takes more of a no-nonsense approach to mornings, although he admits it doesn’t work all the time. “Time management and preparation are huge,” he says. “Have clothes, bags, lunches prepared the night before and delegate tasks to older children. We take a pointed approach to mornings. It helps but is not immune to the dreaded meltdown!

Mornings can be especially tricky for parents of children with special needs in ways parents of neurotypical kids could ever imagine. Donna Ladd, whose son has autism, uses an organization system to put her mind at ease. “The main task that helps me feel less stressed is ensuring my youngest, who attends a special needs school, is set with the labels/tags that help with his safety,” she says. The bus drivers change up often (COVID) during the school year. Making sure all his special needs labels identify him as ASD and non-verbal while also including my number helps tremendously in answering a new bus matron or substitute teacher’s question right away.” 

Keep Your Cool

I’m just as guilty as the next frazzled mom who often resorts to yelling and threats when everyone is moving a little too slow in the morning. You can only say “it’s time to get up” so many times before you start losing it. And I always end up feeling terrible because it sets a negative tone for everyone, which is no way to start the day.

Anne Spagnolo takes a much calmer approach, giving her little ones extra time to start the day their own way. “I let my kiddos play a little before breakfast, then we eat and they choose some music they want to listen to,” she says. “After they get ready they get to choose how to relax before heading to school: either a little more play time or I read with them. Does it always work? No, but giving them the opportunity to unwind and do something they enjoy before school definitely helps.”

Jessica Zeehandelar swears by a soothing wake-up routine. “I wake my children up gently with a soft voice, snuggles and optimism. Or sometimes I say something cheesy like ‘Sleepyhead, it’s time to get your bottom out of bed,’” she says.

I know it sounds cliche, but when they’re adults, you might actually miss those hectic school mornings. Thomas Laresca said it best: “Take a deep breath and enjoy them, time goes quick, one day they’ll be away at college and you’ll wish you had those days again.”

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