Take the Stress Out of School Mornings
School mornings are tough. It has always been a challenge to get my kids up and out of bed, dressed, fed and out the door properly attired for the weather. With some luck and perhaps a little coercion, harassment, shouting, tears (all mine) and lots of stress to go round, we get to school just as the bell rings. This drama is all with elementary school kids. I expect that by the time they are in high school I won’t have any of these troubles – right?
Last year we actually succeeded in eliminating most of the stress and much of the harassment and shouting. We generally had a fairly agreeable time in the mornings and more often than not, made it to school on time, even early some days!
How did we get to this glorious land of school mornings?
The weekend before school started the girls and I talked about school and agreed that we didn’t like arguing in the morning and we didn’t like getting to school late. I expressed my frustration with being late – this is one of my buttons. I do not like to be late to anything. I don’t get stressed about many things in life. For some reason the closer we get to the point of no return – that point at which we are going to be late no matter how fast we move, my stress and frustration shoots up.
We talked about what the girls wanted to do in the mornings and when they wanted to arrive at school. We set a target of what time they wanted to arrive. They agreed (with each other amazingly) that they wanted to arrive early enough to play on the playground before the bell rang. We agreed to a goal of arriving ten minutes before the bell rings for our arrival time.
All of the Stuff
I then gave the girls the task of each writing out all of the things we needed or wanted to do in the mornings on slips one paper. One item per piece of paper. Once they were done, we compared what they had come up with and figured out if we had everything. These slips included everything including waking up, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, eating, putting on shoes all as individual tasks.
Next we organized all of the tasks into the order in which we felt they should be done. We had some discussions about when teeth should be brushed and weather they would eat first or get dressed first. Once we had negotiated the order, we glued all of the slips of paper that we needed on to a piece of bristol board in the order that they needed to be done.Develop a school morning schedule with your kids to reduce stress & get you to school on time. Click To Tweet
Once we had all the pieces of the morning laid out on our chart, we then talked about how much time we needed for each step. We worked backwards from the time they wanted to be at school. So the first step we talked about was how long we thought it would take to walk to school. We talked about how that would change with the seasons and then figured out an average so we could take into account slogging to school through fresh snow versus riding our bikes at other times of the year. When we talked about getting up and out of bed, we added five extra minutes to allow them to be grumpy and resistant to getting out of bed. Then we agreed to the time that I needed to wake them up so that we could have enough time to do everything.
Developing this chart together meant that we had consensus on how our mornings were going to work. It meant that throughout the year I could point to the chart and remind them that they agreed to this process and timeline. They were quite cooperative when it came to maintaining the schedule because they had taken part in developing it. We put the chart up on the wall in the kitchen and regularly they would check the chart to see what they were supposed to do next, especially if they were tired. The chart in effect also became a checklist for us to make sure we got everything done.
Watching the Clock
The key to making this process work was watching the clock. I kept and eye on the time and if they were taking too long with breakfast, getting dressed or putting on snowpants and coats I could point to the chart and tell them they needed to move faster or we weren’t going to hit our goals. This generally worked. We certainly still had arguments and frustrations and I regularly had to snap my oldest kid out of her daydreams – which always seem to kick in when she has one shoe on her foot. This process significantly reduced the arguments and reduced my stress load in getting them out the door. We more consistently made it to school on time and early enough for them to have time to play. We had many weeks in a row when we hit our target times every day.Develop a school morning schedule with your kids to reduce stress & get you to school on time. Click To Tweet