It's 9 a.m. Where are the kids?
Are they still sleeping after yet another wonderful late summer bedtime? Or are they up but taking their time dressing and eating? It's a typical lazy summer morning. Isn't it wonderful? But all too soon school will be back in session and the kids need to be up, dressed, organized and out of the house in the early morning.
If you want your mornings to be relatively stress free, you will need to start thinking about the school schedule about a week before the first day of school. Working the family back to earlier bedtimes is a process and just won't happen in one night.
First, think how much sleep your child needs. If he has been staying up late and then just sleeping until he awakens, how many hours does he usually sleep? Now you know how much he needs. This may have changed over the summer because he could be maturing and need a bit less sleep or the opposite can happen if he's in a major growth spurt.
The trickier question is what time he needs to get up in the morning. How long does it take him to get out of bed, fed and dressed? Some kids are very slow and need extra time, so take that into consideration.
So now you have your goals. You have determined a bedtime and a wake-up time.
Start by talking to the kids and explaining the need to set a bedtime. Make it a process, backing up the time in increments. It's a good idea to arrange for some exercise during the afternoon so that the kids just may be tired a bit earlier.
Getting them up is another challenge. They are used to lolling about, so being told to get up and get moving will not be greeted with joy. So plan a morning activity so that there is actually a reason to get out of bed. Haven't made it to Science World yet this summer? This is a great opportunity. If the kids love shopping for back-to-school, make it a morning outing maybe followed by lunch.
By the first day of school your kids will be on schedule.
Children function best when there is a routine. Even your teens, who are particularly grumpy in the morning, benefit from a plan. As a matter of fact, the more you hate mornings, no matter what your age, the easier it can be with a plan. Then you can simply sleepwalk through the steps and at the end of it walk out the door ready to face the day.
There is no right routine, only the one that works best for you.
Many families find that doing some preparation in the evening is a lifesaver. Have breakfast ready to go, cereal and bowls on the table, coffee ready at the flick of the switch, and juice ready to pour.
The same works with lunch. Having all the ingredients ready to be put together for lunch beats staring at the fridge trying to figure out what to prepare. School-age kids can make their own lunch with some guidelines about the variety of foods they need.
You can lay out clothing the night before and have backpacks filled and waiting at the door.
Get yourself up a bit earlier. Shower and dress in quiet and comfort before the children are out of bed. The few minutes of lost sleep are worth it. You may even get to have your coffee before you leave for work.
Leave the TV turned off.
Kids do not need to watch TV before they head to school. It's distracting and causes them to want to sit and watch rather than get ready for the day. I have heard of some families who play rousing music in the morning to get everyone going.
There are lots of little ways to make mornings work for you. Think about your family, think about the morning moments that are pure hell and then plan to avoid those moments.
Involve the whole family in the plan and be prepared to make adjustments in the first weeks of school.
It won't be perfect. But, you can decide that you are going to arrive at work in a good mood, ready to work and your children are likewise going to head to school in a good mood ready to learn.
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. To read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at parentingtoday.ca.
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