We’ve all been there, right? The lingering haze of the holidays hovers and we thrash about the house scooping breakfast into bowls and delivering yet another ultimatum to ‘get those shoes on!’ Uniforms vanish, children refuse to get out of bed, tempers flare, the house explodes into a scene of chaos and dismay.
Getting to school can feel like entering a war zone, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Routine can be a dividing word. ‘That’s just not who I am,’ you might be thinking. ‘I like to do life free and on my own terms.’ And yet, if freedom is what you are after, perhaps routine is exactly what you need. Or maybe you just want life to be a bit easier – to actually enjoy the journey to school, rather than feel as if you just weathered a thunderstorm.
Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, suggests that ‘there is a huge body of scientific research to explain the mechanism by which routine enables difficult things to become easy.’ Put simply – when we do tasks over and over, the connections in the brain strengthen and these tasks eventually require less effort. See? Freedom.
With clear routines in place, kids know what is expected of them and you might even end up enjoying the trip to school.
1. Hold Family Meetings
Sure, you can set routines and deliver them like Moses with his stone tablets, but you might find that there is some resistance. One reason behind morning struggles might be because our kids aren’t empowered enough. In the popular TED talk ‘Agile Programming for Your Family’, Bruce Feiler explains why it is so important to involve kids in family decisions. Allowing his twin daughters to diagnose and come up with solutions to family problems meant that they rose to the occasion, seized ownership and adapted when the situation required it.
If you need some tips on hosting a family meeting, check out this guide.
2. Prioritise Bedtimes
It can be tempting to put off bedtime battles. During the summer months in particular, when the light lingers and beckons, we can get into bad habits and end up with overtired children. It might surprise you to learn that in children, lack of sleep can exhibit in symptoms that look like ADHD. If you want to set up your kids for a solid day of focusing and allow them their best chance of learning, set up good routines in the evening as well, with firm bedtimes that allow them to achieve the recommended hours for their age.
3. Complete What You Can the Night Before
As tempting as it can be to just crash for the night, setting out lunchboxes and breakfast cereal boxes sure can kickstart the morning. Even just turning your mind to what needs to happen helps eliminate the rising creep of stress as you navigate the morning tasks. Setting out your clothes (and encouraging kids to set out theirs) means no missing uniforms and allows you to start the day on a confident note.
4. Close the Kitchen at a Set Time
When I first heard about this, I admit, it sounded harsh. ‘What if they go to school without breakfast?’ I fretted. And it has happened, once or twice. But the payoff has exponentially outweighed the negatives, allowing plenty of time for us to enjoy the morning before we have to race out the door.
So how does it work? First, make up a picture chart or list of all the activities that children are required to do before eating breakfast and then figure out together what time the kitchen will close. This is a gamechanger. In a few days you will find that your kids will come to the table fully dressed with their bags packed and ready to go.
5. Part on a Good Note
Even if the morning didn’t go to plan and you weren’t as calm as you hoped, try and use the journey to school to connect in a positive way. Whether it is singing along to their favourite songs or just chatting about life and answering questions, you will all feel better if you part for the day on positive terms. Kids face a lot throughout the day – navigating friendships and social situations, learning new concepts and figuring out who they are in the scheme of a greater whole. Knowing that they are secure in their own family unit and loved no matter what is a grounding that you can provide in those final moments before the school day begins.
What do you do to make the school mornings a success? We would love to hear your tips. Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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