With uniforms to organise, books to find and lunch boxes to pack, the off-to-school rush can be hard to handle. But if you take the time to organise your morning routine, life will be a lot easier. Here are my top 10 tips to get you started.
1. Before the first day of school, tell your child/children exactly how you’d like the morning to go and the jobs assigned to everyone.
2. Do as much as you can the night before. If the kids have swimming lessons, get all the necessary items and have them ready at the door. The less you have to do the next morning, the calmer everyone will be.
3. Get up at least half an hour before everyone else so you can get ready uninterrupted.
4. Make sure everyone in the family knows what they need for the different days of the week. A whiteboard noting the weekly extras is a great help. Having a set of drawers with the days of the week makes finding the extras easy too, so long as you remember to put the swimmers in the Monday drawer after washing them! A typed-up routine on the fridge is also useful for children who can read.
5. For non-readers, simply draw a list of the steps they need to complete each morning and have this in their room. Be sure to give this some thought, as the sequence is important. It’s ideal to have kids dressed, complete with shoes, before they leave their room for breakfast so they don’t have to backtrack.
6. One of the biggest complaints from parents is the lunch box saga – what to give them they’ll actually eat? My advice is to hand over the choices to your child. You’ll need clear guidelines to include two pieces of fruit, a sandwich and a snack but then it’s up to them. The more you can organise this job with options and printed lists, the easier it will be for you to shop and for them to choose. There’s no need for juices, cordials or milk drinks – every day plain water is the healthiest choice. If they’re not used to this, then persist. After a couple of weeks all protests will be a thing of the past.
7. Above all, remember your role is to facilitate rather than do it for them. As a parent one of your goals is to prepare your child to look after themselves in the world. Doing everything for them won’t lead to independence. Never underestimate the joy kids get from contributing.
8. Praise any and every effort! If you’re genuine in your praise for their effort in getting ready, rather than quick to criticise them for going slow, they’ll improve. Praise what you want repeated tomorrow and let the rest go.
9. Set a timer to ring when it’s time to leave rather than you nagging everyone to get in the car.
10. If they leave something behind, don’t go back and get it. The consequences for being disorganized need to be experienced so they don’t forget their swimmers or goggles next week.
One final point – if you do things for them the first day or week they’ll expect it the next. When you do something to give them a hand a child’s mind says ‘If I protest, Mum will do it for me...’. When tempted, ask yourself ‘Do I want to keep doing this?’. If the answer is yes, do it. If no, don’t!