Taming the morning madness

Tips for smooth and successful school-day mornings with children.

For many families, mornings are one of the busiest and most stressful times of the day. Everyone in the home is needing to get up, get dressed, eat, get bags packed and be out the door by a certain time. Add in extras like pet care or missing shoes and everyone quickly feels very frazzled. Michigan State University Extension recommends the following strategies to help smooth your morning routine.

Prep at night. Good mornings begin the night before. Help children choose their clothes, look up the weather, think about if it’s gym or art day, pack backpacks, etc. It’s far easier to locate the missing homework at night than in the morning just before the bus comes!

Get enough sleep. Be sure your children are getting enough sleep. Many children are chronically short on sleep. This makes for crabby kids in the morning. Do your best to adjust evenings so your child is going to bed early enough to be well-rested come morning. Develop a bedtime routine and stick to it as much as possible. Limit electronics and stimulating activities before bed.

Have a morning routine. Create a picture schedule or a written checklist for older children. Write down each step. A sample might look like this:

  • Wake up by 7 a.m.
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush your teeth and hair
  • Put your lunch and snack in your backpack
  • Check backpack for homework/planner/etc.
  • Put on shoes and coat
  • Out the door by 8 a.m.

Allow for plenty of time. One of the more common weekday morning problems stems from not having enough time. Be sure children have enough time to complete their morning routine. If you’re consistently running late, look at where the problems occur. Are these things you can address at night? Are their substitutes such as swapping a sit down breakfast with a protein bar and piece of fruit that might speed things up?

Encourage age-appropriate child independence and responsibility. It can be tempting for parents to assume the responsibility of assuring children are arriving to school with all of their necessary items. However, as children mature, it is important for them to assume responsibility for themselves and their choices. Resist the temptation to run forgotten homework and snack up to school. Teach children to set an alarm clock and wake up on their own. By allowing children to assume responsibility and experience consequences, you are supporting their growing maturity and teaching them important life skills.

Take the time to plan ahead, ensure your child gets enough sleep and create a solid morning routine. These steps can help you structure your mornings for success and help stop them from slipping into chaos.

Visit Michigan State University Extension’s Early Childhood Development webpage for resources and information for families and children and to find upcoming events in your area.

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