Back to school – without the headache

Here’s how to conquer your morning routine (with your sanity intact)

Columnist Kita Szpak.


A sigh of relief passes your lips as September heralds the return of your children to school. No matter how wonderful the summer weather, the vacation, the BBQs, the beach, etc., every parent looks forward to re-establishing routines, and getting a respite from the sometimes 24/7 on-call nature of the silly season (“silly” is such an apt word here. Can you imagine winter being called “silly”?). 

The return to school brings relief but it also brings into play the frequently dreaded morning routine – or lack thereof – that makes for a chaotic, frustrating and mutually disagreeable way of starting the day for both parents and children. What can be done to ease the entire family into a more harmonious rhythm? Let’s take a look at some basic steps you can take to improve your family’s getting-ready-to-go morning routine.

Get up 15 minutes earlier

If you can adjust your inner clock and get up 15 minutes earlier to have that cup of java in a quiet space or take the dog out or stretch in solitude before everyone else is up, this will ease you into the day. Taking time for yourself allows your system to “wake up” and be ready for the action that’s to come.

Prepare the night before

If you’re not a morning person and getting up earlier is not in your lexicon, setting out your clothes (the kids’ as well), preparing lunches, and checking the next day’s itinerary the night before is a good way to have the “busy” items taken care of so you can focus on the unexpected needs that may pop up come morning.

Let your children choose

Sure, you want your son to look good going to school, but if he is determined to wear his beat-up summer T-shirt that he loves so much, let him. Mismatched socks, colours, and coordinates that don’t make fashion sense – at least to you – are not the end of the world. And if selecting and putting on clothing takes extra time, establish the “Get up 15 minutes earlier” rule for your son, too.

Ask and search out sooner rather than later

If you want to avoid the scenario of finding a permission form that needs to be signed and returned today just as you’re getting everyone out the door, inspect the knapsack or ask the questions the night before. This takes time, but it sure beats last-minute surprises in the morning.

Set the pattern and stick to it

If you want your daughter to dress first and then come down for some breakfast before going to school, then repeat this until she understands that this is the way the morning unfolds. If she’s downstairs in pajamas one day, dressed the next and so on, the lack of clarity of what’s what will confuse her. Set the guidelines so that consistent behaviour becomes routine. 

Personal responsibility begins before kids are of school age

Parents who have already introduced household chores and personal responsibilities to their children before they are of school age will have an easier time of it. Learning to do everything from putting dirty clothes in the hamper, unloading the knapsack, choosing clothes, getting dressed, getting out breakfast items and understanding that Mommy needs time to get dressed too, will help smooth out the path to making the morning routine easier and easy to stick to once school is back in session.