You’re running late. Again. A harried rush down the stairs while dodging mounds of strewn boots and backpacks reveals the six-year-old is already stationed in the kitchen in her plaid pajamas and bumblebee raincoat. Munching cookies for breakfast, she has decided to pack her own lunch: more cookies. Your wildly coiffed son shoves a fistful of papers at you as the older son runs into the room, squinting. (He’s dropped one of his contact lenses into the toilet.) You haven’t even had coffee yet.
Morning preparations are generally best started the day before. A little planning and a sound mind (even if it’s not an entirely sane mind at dawn) will keep your mornings running more smoothly.
Reduce the stress
- Handle school paperwork as soon as it comes in the door. Place important forms and required items into backpacks immediately.
- Keep an organized communications area complete with bulletin, chalk- or whiteboards to stay on top of events, important dates, lists and schedules. This ‘memory jogger’ should be placed somewhere you’ll see it before you leave. Even sticky notes on the door to remind everyone of the things they need to take and what they need to do, makes them accountable instead of your always organizing their lives. Barbara Coloroso, parenting expert and author of the bestselling book, Kids are worth it! Giving your child the gift of inner discipline reminds parents that nagging and tracking their kid’s every move makes a child too dependent. “They think, ‘Why should I go through the hassle of remembering when I have someone else to do it for me?’”
- Get kids into the habit of laying clothes out the night before to ensure needed gym shorts will make it through the laundry at least once a month! Backpacks, shoes and umbrellas (or other appropriate seasonal apparel) should be in an easy-to-locate place assigned to only those items. Getting children into the habit of preparing their own clothing fosters responsibility and independence (while encouraging them to occasionally change their underwear).
Coloroso says, “Let kids make decisions and choices. Hold them accountable and allow them to experience the consequences. You know the other kids will laugh if they have those crazy clothes on. Well, guess what. So what? You know, she’s developing her own personality.”
- Make healthy choices quick and fun. “Breakfast is critical,” says Coloroso. “We should make the time to have it with them in the morning. I say it is good to have at least one meal a day with your kids.”
- Leave the television out of the picture to help maintain a steady stream of conscious activity.
- Set a timer to accomplish morning tasks. This is an effective way to motivate kids. (Don’t rush kids through eating—the Heimlich should not be a necessary skill on a daily basis.) Coloroso set the stove timer. “They knew that when that alarm went off there was only 15 minutes before they had to be out the door.”
So now you’re set to start another day. Perform a quick visual check for shoes, backpacks and lunch boxes. Those faces might not beam up at you as you herd them out of the door, but you’ve graduated into a parent who can continue your day without the need for sedatives.
Failure to lunch
Pre-preparing some lunch items can make packing it up a breeze.
- Dip apple slices or banana chunks in lemon juice to keep from browning when preparing ahead of time.
- Enlist your children’s help once a week to prepare portions of snacks and finger foods to make lunch assembly easier.
- Remind your child about that dentist appointment by attaching a note to that bag of cookies.
- On the reminder board, make lists visual, with picture tasks for pre-schoolers.
- Older kids can assemble most of their lunch the night before.
- Give kids a watch to help them get YOU out of the door on time (fun and empowering).
- Reminding kids of schedules enroute to school helps memory retention. Having them repeat plans helps even more so.
Originally published in August 2007.