Stress Free School Mornings

For some families, back to school time means back to chaotic, stress-filled mornings. Do you find that there is always one child who seems always to lose a shoe the moment you say, “its time to get in the car? Or another who consistently has to run back into the house for something they forgot? Trying to get everyone out of bed, fed, dressed, and out the door on time with everything they need for the school day can be exhausting and overwhelming! The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some strategies to make your mornings go from stressful to successful.


Set and communicate realistic expectations

Research shows that setting realistic expectations and communicating them leads to successful outcomes. In other words, set goals that you think your child can reach and share those with them. When creating school morning expectations, it’s essential to:

Start small. Think about what your child does now and take it one step beyond that. For example, for the child who can never find his shoes, have him get into the habit of putting his shoes in a special spot the moment he takes them off. Once he is consistent with this, you might make sure that his shoes are on his feet by a specific time each morning.

Take into consideration your child’s age, development level, or temperament. It’s important to consider what each child is capable of when setting expectations. For example, your 13-year-old might be a pro at styling her hair, but your five-year-old might find it challenging to manage a brush. It would be fair to expect the 13-year-old to fix her hair in the morning, but it would be unfair to expect your five-year-old to do so. Another example is, you might find that one child is focused and able to get ready in just twenty minutes. But another child moves at a turtle’s pace and needs an hour and twenty minutes. This difference is something that you should account for when setting time expectations for each child.


Plan ahead

Have you ever gone to pack lunch in the morning only to discover you are out of bread or another essential item? It can be so frustrating, especially if it was preventable. Planning ahead is a simple yet powerful tool for reducing school morning stress. It’s also an important skill to teach your children because it promotes independence and time-management. The night before school, have your children bathe or shower, pick out their clothes, check that schoolwork is completed, and backpacks are packed, etc. It also might be helpful to designate a spot to place bags, shoes, car keys, and other essential items.


Managing time

Does your first grader spend 20 minutes looking for a “favorite toy” that she never plays with instead of brushing her teeth? Or does your middle schooler sit on the couch, staring at the wall and sigh instead of getting dressed? There are several reasons your child could be demonstrating these behaviors. Perhaps your child doesn’t understand the concept of time, they become easily distracted, can’t decide what to do next, or are trying to delay the inevitable. No matter the reason, teaching your child to manage their time properly and efficiently will reduce the chances of any anxiety-filled morning rush. To help your child learn this critical skill:

Eliminate morning distractions. Many kids and many adults are easily distracted. To help your child stay focused on school mornings, institute a policy that tv, cell phones, and other electronics must remain off until your child is completely ready to go to school. Not only will this reduce distractions, but it also might motivate him.


Create a morning checklist. Help your child stay on task by creating a visual to remind them what they need to do next. Check out the morning routine template in our Parent Hub!


Set time expectations. When you tell your children that you want everyone out the door by 7:15, what do you mean? Is this statement merely a “last call”? Or did you actually mean you want the kids in the car by 7:15? It’s essential to define your time expectations and communicate them to your family.


Keep track of victories and take note of when things don’t go as expected. When your child has a good morning, it’s important to notice and acknowledge their success. It’s also essential that you keep track of the mornings that did not go well. By doing this, you might see a trend or an area that could use a little help. For example, if your child oversleeps every Wednesday morning, they might need to go to bed earlier on Tuesday nights. Or perhaps you notice that your child stays on task until breakfast, and then it seems to all fall apart. By keeping track, you can investigate and help your child overcome any morning hurdles. Check out our morning report for parents on Parent Hub!


Morning time can be a stressful time. But it doesn’t have to be! By setting and communicating realistic expectations, planning ahead, and teaching your children how to manage their time, your family can get off to a pleasant start each day.

Visit the Hub Handouts section for a morning report template or morning routine checklist.

Come share your experiences or get answers to your challenges with our community in the forums!