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Back to school time means a return to many things: shorter days, changing leaves, and more rigid, schedules – and the stress that comes along with it. The most stressful time in my house throughout the school year is the morning hours and getting our four children prepared, dressed, fed, organized, and sent to school. Somehow, amidst all the stressful mayhem my husband and I miraculously get to work on time!! Luckily, in our house, we believe in miracles! However, the miracle of getting everyone to school and work both ON TIME and SAFELY does not occur solely through divine intervention, rather, it is the result of consistently applying a few common-sense tricks to ensure that our house is running like a well-oiled machine each and every morning.

De stressing my morning routine has been a goal in my life ever since child #1 came along. Now that child #2, #3, and of course don’t forget #4 are part of the mix; organization is not an option, rather a necessity. Below are a few wise parenting tips I have acquired over the years from friends and family have really helped our family move more efficiently in the morning and has decreased the decibel level in the house in the morning by many factors.

– View the morning as an oasis after the drought. Kids can be demanding in the morning, crying and irritated for unknown reasons! I have found that entertaining the need for special ‘parent time’ in the AM and the need for attention from a parent (either mom or dad ) before starting their day helps the children feel secure and loved in light of a stressful and difficult part of the day. This bonding time need, does not necessarily mesh with the notion of having to rush everyone out of the house and getting to work on time. However, taking a moment to connect with the kids by snuggling or having a conversation in the morning with my children has found to be an important and effective element in establishing a bonding connection that reduces their attention-seeking behavior of yelling and screaming in the early hours of the day.

– Bedtime routine and structure: Often times summertime bedtime and routines are varied and non-scheduled. Putting my children back on a bedtime routine with an appropriate bedtime, and talking about the next day’s events prior to bedtime, and discussing simple expectations helps them start the next day with a positive attitude.

– Don’t put off till tomorrow morning what you could do tonight: Short of sleeping in tomorrow’s clothes (which I have personally done before in desperation!), some of the best preparatory tasks that I try to do the night before include organizing backpacks, setting out clothing, preparing lunches/snacks, and making sure you have the right ingredients for that breakfast idea. And remember, preparing myself as well! Laying out my own clothes, prepare my lunch and ensure that my work bags are ready the night before.

– “The launch pad”: To help stay organized, I have designated a separate container or large basket for each of my children where all school-related items go, such as backpacks, lunches boxes, permission slips, or there school-related items. I place this “launch pad” in a location where my children pass on the way out the door (such as in a mud room, etc.). I try to make sure they can reach everything in the “launch pad” so that they can feel organized that school items are in one central place.

– Anxiety begets anxiety! Stay Calm: The more rushed and anxious I am in the morning, the slower my children move! Instead of getting more anxious, I have tried to give the personal touch, stooping down to make eye contact and trying to redirect their attention and behavior to the morning routine. This helps and enables them to focus and move quite a bit faster in the morning (not that fast, but faster ! ) Once I establish a connection, compliance speed usually follows thereafter!

Until next time, my message: Stay calm, breathe deep! And more importantly, smile and laugh often! My message to our awesome and wonderful patients out there! Have a great school year, stay healthy, laugh a lot and have fun!