“It’s like most things,” says Dee Lopanno, a Nashville mom of three. “If you put off thinking about or planning for what’s coming, you’ll get overwhelmed by it when it hits. Believe me, I learned that the hard way,” she says.
To prepare herself for the school morning frenzy that begins with the start of school, Lopanno starts getting herself organized in the spring.
“I make certain to order the pre-packaged school supplies our school offers. That way there’s not nearly as many things to pick up before the first day of school,” she says.
But if your school doesn’t offer that, or if you’re too late for the option, at least start stockpiling school supplies in the summer, placing each individual child’s supplies in his own box. Here are a slew of other great tips to help you master your mornings:
Start the night before
Have your kids get prepped the night before. Organize backpacks, pick out the next day’s outfits and lay everything out and choose what to pack for lunch the next day so it goes like clockwork.
Stick to a strict bedtime
“If your child is hard to wake up and takes a long time to get ready in the morning, make his bedtime earlier,” says Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting (Ballantine Books; $14.95).
Rise ‘n shine
By waking up earlier than the rest of the family, you’ll have a sliver of quiet time to savor a cup of coffee, meditate or review plans for the day. This will help you to feel less rushed and better prepared for the morning.
Let routines rule
Have your child do the required activities – such as brushing teeth and getting dressed – in the same order every morning, so he knows what comes next. Help him create a morning to-do list so he can check off each job without being reminded.
Prepare for breakfast
At night, lay out cereal boxes, bowls and spoons on the table. Make enough pancake batter on Sunday evenings for several days.
Don‘t hesitate to delegate
Avoid arguments about who does what by assigning your kids regular morning chores, such as feeding the pet or clearing the table.
Use the pit stop
Eliminate the mad dashes to find things by designating a special spot near the front door for backpacks, sports equipment and other items.
If you’re tense in the morning, your child will pick up on it. Use humor to defray problems that may come up.
Learn from your mistakes
If you have a frustrating morning, think about why it was so stressful. Figure out how to do things better the next day.
Listen to other moms‘ tips
Moms have been working to master school mornings for years. Listen to what works for other mothers and when you hear something that sounds good for your household, try it!
clothes wars: pick your battles, wear them well
Beginning at about age 3, experts say, children want to wear what they pick out on their own. They have learned how wonderful it is to be in control. But when school starts and kids start expressing themselves due to peer pressure, outrageous fashion trends or just personal expression, some parents get concerned. Here are tips to help you navigate in the fashion arena:
- Kids need to know that they look good. Compliment your child by finding something you like about his style.
- Clothes are expensive. Help your child learn about budgets by giving him one. Clothing allowances with spending guidelines can start as young as age 10.
- Set limits. Be reasonable, but establish how high a skirt can go, how low the jeans can sag and whether piercings are allowed. Talk about the limits and the reasons for them.
- If shopping or choosing clothes to wear is a problem, provide limited choices (“You may choose one of these pairs of athletic shoes. Great. Now choose some pants. Want the gray or the black?”).
- If your child is shocking you with her styles, assess the rest of her life. If she is dressing like her friends, doing well in school, and volunteering at the old folks home on weekends, who cares if her nails are black?
- Teach your kids where certain clothes are and aren’t appropriate. Your daughter’s pierced navel might be her pride and joy, but flaunting it is inappropriate.
- Draw the line at tattoos. Piercings heal. Tattoos are forever, so leave that to their own adult decision.
organization for kids
One reason kids – especially middle schoolers – have trouble in school is they’re not organized. You can’t just say, “Get organized!” because kids have no idea how to begin when they are little. If they don’t learn strategies, disorganization will be a major hindrance come the middle school years and increased academic work. Help your child get his act together with the following tips:
- Stick to a routine. Keep homework time at about the same time every day, and follow up with your child.
- Agree on a set place for your child to do homework. This can be a flat surface in any room with minimal distractions. Pencils and a pencil sharpener, paper and other supplies should be handy.
- Make lists a habit. Buy your child a little notebook to carry around at all times. Suggest he make lists for homework, chores and other activities. When he forgets something, teach him to check his list. He’ll eventually get the hang of it.
- Give your child a calendar to record assignments and other commitments.
- Provide box files, ring binders and folders. Help your child catalogue and file homework, magazines and other papers.
- Insist on a weekly “mining” session. Throw away what’s not needed; put useful items where they go.
- Encourage “self-notes.” Teach kids to write little reminders of things to do and post them where they’re easy to see – like the bathroom mirror!
- Every night, plan together for the next day. Confirm who will be doing what when. Lay out clothes. Pack lunches. Put backpacks by the door.