A new school year looms on the horizon; with it comes a myriad of things to organise, such as the necessary stationery, textbooks and other items you’ve been instructed to buy. But how about getting the household out of holiday mode and back into a solid, school-ready routine?
Here are some tips on laying the groundwork for a back-to-school routine with less stress.
Consider what a good routine looks like to you
Before you begin cracking the whip, think about what you would like your school morning routine to look like. Start by mapping out (realistic) time-frames for how long it takes your household to get dressed, fed and organised and go from there.
And don’t forget that communication is key. You don’t want to just thrust your kids into a new pattern out of the blue. Give them a heads up about the
new routine and why it’s happening. For younger kids, you may need to nut this practice out in a step-by-step, visual fashion.
Create a morning routine chart
Following from that last point, try creating a routine chart. This chart can be image-based for younger kids, or a list for older kids. Whatever its form, the morning routine chart is there to make everyone accountable for everything that needs to be done.
As you start going through the steps, talk through each one to ensure you’re all on the same page. It can also help you nip any potential issues in the bud. If your kids are old enough, let them tick off each task as they complete it. This will give them some sense of ownership and independence which (hopefully) facilitates a smoother morning for you.
Morning Routine Chart from The Almost Perfectionist
Be realistic and set up safeguards
If there are predictable hurdles that may interrupt your routine, set up safeguards. For example, if morning chats at the breakfast table tend to run over time, set an alarm. Rather than being a call for immediate action, the alarm should let the family know they have a few minutes left of banter and then it’s action time.
Another hurdle could be preparing brekkie. If breakfast is always a bit of a push, make it the night before (or further in advance if you’re super-duper organised!). Also, if you find yourself constantly on the prowl for missing pieces (lunch boxes, backpacks, permission slips, etc.) create a special place for school items and make sure it’s all there the day before.
Back it up with solid shut-eye
It's time to say night-night’s to fluid, erratic bedtimes. During the school term, your household needs structured hours to ensure that the kids are getting the amount of sleep their age dictates.
So how do you fix your kids’ sleep schedule?
It’s often recommended to work backwards. What time do the kids need to wake up to get to school in time (refer back to your morning routine)? Let’s say it’s 7:30am and your child needs 10 hours of sleep. That means they need to be asleep (not in bed, but asleep) by 9:30pm.
It can be difficult to bring forward bedtime, so it’s recommended that you take the softly, softly approach. Try to implement a new bedtime one to two weeks before school starts, and then every few days, bring the bedtime forward 15 minutes every few days until you’ve hit the ideal bedtime.
How to get ready for bed
As with the morning routine, you’ll need to map out what the new bedtime routine looks like. In a nutshell, it should be relaxing and quiet – TV and device-free. Part of the routine could include reading a book, practising some relaxation or breathing techniques, along with the usual pre-bed necessities. Walk your kids through the steps of the new routine and try to make it as pleasant and transparent as possible.
This is also the perfect time to help teach your kids about healthy sleep habits.
Cool, calm and collected
Wake up before the kids so you’re caffeinated, dressed and ready to roll before the ensuing chaos. This will help you stay one step ahead of the fray, give you more time to pause and less opportunity to get into a tizz. It also means you have the resources to guide the family through the morning and be present.
Do away with distractions
You're already attempting to herd cats, so don’t make it harder on yourself by putting a distraction into the equation. Remove any iPads and the potential for TV until all tasks are done. Even then, consider the amount of time it will take to wrestle the kids from the device/show and place that into the morning routine.
Praise and encourage
Make the morning routine a positive experience and don’t forget to acknowledge when each family member (even your partner!) nails a specific aspect. With a morning routine in place, school mornings don’t need to be a stressful affair.
All it takes is a little prep and a lot of communication.