Monday 9 March 2015

10 Top tips for a stress free school morning

I often hear parents talk about how they pull their hair our before school each day and I have to confess that this is one area we do not suffer any problems with, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my tips for ensuring the morning goes without a hitch.

My children are now 7, 7 and 11 and until 18 months ago I was a work out-of-the-home Mum so we needed to leave home by about 7.30am and I had school breakfast club and nursery drops to do, so I do know the pressure of an early morning and multiple children.

Of course my life has changed now and I feel very blessed that we do not need to leave home until 8.25am and as the kids are older they are now more self-sufficient.  Boy did it use to be fun when I had two 18 month old twins to wake, feed, clean-up and dress as well as a 5 year old boy t shepherd and direct, all to leave home by 7.30am.

So here are my tips for a stress free morning -

1.  Get all the clothes ready the night before and lay them out somewhere easy. When you have children as old as mine they can dress themselves and I ask the kids to get dressed as the first thing they do in the morning. When they were younger I served breakfast first as otherwise they got all messy but do what suits you. Also don’t forget to make sure that your clothes are ready too, those few extra minutes all add up and make a difference.

2.  Plan the kids meals once a week. We order school dinners online and I do that with the kids on a Sunday night. It is only really one of my kids who has school dinners, so I have two packed lunches to do for each day and I choose to make the sandwich (or whatever is the main basis of the lunch) and put it in the fridge the night before. I then leave the lunch bags on the side and my 11 year old son will put everything in the bags once he is dressed and put them by the door. If you need some ideas for packed lunches then Donna at Mummy Central can help.

3.  Try the polo challenge. Every so often we have the polo challenge in this house and I swear this is what helped us get our morning routine down to pat. Sometimes either the first child or all the kids (depending on how I feel) will get a polo as a reward for being completely ready for school in good time. They only get the polo when absolutely everything is done and we are ready to walk out the door and I only do it ad-hoc so they never expect it.

4.  Pack their school bags the night before. As soon as the kids come home from school I expect them to unpack their lunch box and to get all notes etc from their bag and give them to me. Then before the kids go to bed I ask them if they have everything they need in their bag and they need to check. We have a homework rota on the wall, so they know what days things are due in and I make sure I have filled in forms and put money in envelopes etc and it is all back in their bags.

5.  Get breakfast ready the night before. We do not have to do this one anymore as we have enough morning time but when I was working and leaving early, it made all the difference to have the table set with cereals on the table etc so all the kids had to do was grab the milk. We also use to have pre-packed brioche and fruit cut in the fridge so it was easy to access. Then make sure the kids take their plates etc to the dishwasher/sink.

6.  Get up before the kids do.  You might like that extra 15 minutes in bed but I bet you will feel better for 15, 30 or even 60 minutes alone before the kids come down and the noise/chaos descends. It might be reading your bible, having a cuppa or doing some exercise, whatever you choose make it something that wakes and revitalises you for the day ahead.

7.  Use a timer. If your child/ren finds it hard to do one of the morning tasks as they keep getting distracted, make it a challenge for them and set a specific time for the task. I used to use this for the kids getting dressed and we cut the time by about 30 seconds every few days until my kids can now get ready in about 2 -2.5 minutes. At the beginning I used an incentive and they got something like a pebble in a jar or a sticker (as part of a wider reward chart/incentive).

8.  Say no to TV and screens in the morning. We have had times were the kids watch TV or go on the computer before school and those are the times when the mornings feel tough and the kids move at the pace of a snail.  I'd say just keep all screens off and then it becomes a nice after-school treat.

What I have been doing recently since the weather has improved is getting the kids to go outside into our courtyard for 10 or 15 minutes and play a game together. Volleyball is a favourite, but they also enjoy skipping, obstacle courses and football. This does not take much organisation and hardly costs a thing, you can pick up really well-priced garden toys at Tesco and other local stores.

9.  Build in contingency time. There will always be the day when your daughter does not like her socks and has to find the perfect pair (oh yes this is one of my twins) or when your son realises today is the day he has to take in a roman artefact and this is the first you are hearing of it but if you have 10 minutes built into the morning you won't be stressing so much and you can still remain loving and gracious in your response. You actually can't underestimate how much your calm persona impacts the children and helps them along.

10.  Discuss the morning routine with the kids. As your children get older they can have some input to how the morning routine runs and just like at work if you involve people in the decision making process they have better buy-in and are more likely to do it. Do what works for your household not your best friends, some people like the kids to get dressed first and others want them to have breakfast, make sure you decide what works for your family and go with it.

I hope you've found my tips helpful, do let me know if you have others that I've missed.

Mich x

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