Back-to-school: 6 tips for no-stress mornings

Mornings can be hard. Popular parenting humorist @LurkatHomeMom once tweeted: “90% of parenting is just walking around yelling, `WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES? WE’RE ALREADY LATE! FIND YOUR SHOES!’”

Real moms weigh in

Steal these savvy tips from fellow moms and incorporate them into your family routine.

Michelle Price, mom of two: I created a laminated to-do list that has all the things that need to get done each morning for each kid for each day of the week. They love using the dry erase marker to check off each task as they complete it and nothing gets forgotten. Bonus? I’m not constantly asking, “Did you…?” Nor are they constantly asking, “What else do I need to do?”

Debbie Schnitzer Cooper, mom of three: Create a chart with end times/deadlines. Each step the kids complete earns them five minutes of iPad time they can redeem on the weekend. This system works perfectly and on weeks I forget to print a new one, things are a total disaster!

Tara Tidwell-Cullen, mom of two: If we can fit in just 15 minutes of play/reading/focused family time with our almost 4-year-old, she is much more cooperative with getting dressed and out the door, and we all start our days in much better moods.

While this social media share was certainly meant to be humorous, real parents in the trenches understand that this sentiment accurately captures a daily struggle: How to get your family out of the house on time, happy and prepared to face the day?

We talked to an organizational expert, parenting coach, mental health professional and experienced parents to find out how they make mornings at their houses stress-free.

The bad news: You can’t expect a one-step, easy fix to this common problem. The good news: With the right attitude, consistent routines, advanced preparation and a little organization, you can ditch challenging mornings in favor of a more serene start to everyone’s day.

Here is how to make it happen at your house.

Focus on you first

Eirene Heidelberger, mom of three and president and CEO of GIT (Get It Together) Mom, says stress-free mornings start with mom.

“Every mom needs to put herself first. In the morning, you have to get yourself up at least 30 minutes before your children. This gives you crucial mom time to get it together. Hearing your alarm go off may be painful, but this is the easiest way to arrive `at the ball’ composed and ready to go, rather than a rushed and sweaty mess,” Heidelberger says.

She suggests taking a couple of minutes to enjoy your coffee, surf social media, respond to any important emails and get dressed for the day. Once you’ve taken time for yourself, she recommends waking your child at least 15 minutes before you need him to function to give him his own “me time.”

“The more awake and relaxed he is, the more cooperative he will be,” Heidelberger says.

Stick to a schedule

Everyone needs a routine, especially young kids.

“The number one tip for creating a stress-free morning is be honest and realistic about your timing because running late is the gateway to yelling at your children,” Heidelberger says.

She advises starting with the time you absolutely must exit your house and then adding five minutes to it. This increases your odds of meeting your “out the door” goal every day.

As back-to-school time nears, Heidelberger also recommends moving bedtimes up by 15 minutes every three days to get to the bedtime that allows kids to have at least 10 hours of sleep and wake up on their own.

Include kids in the process

Don’t try to tackle every item on the morning to-do list yourself.

As kids get older, they can take on more and more responsibility. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Heidelberger suggests making a chart with your child that outlines exactly she needs to do and when.

“Because you’re making the schedule together, your child feels a part of his morning instead of being told what to do by a dictator. Added mom bonus: the more your child is in charge of, the less you will have to do,” says Heidelberger.

Do your homework, too!

Preparation the night before is key to smooth and organized mornings.

Do as much as you can in advance, including laying out outfits, making a plan for breakfast, packing lunches, and getting backpacks, jackets and other items laid out and ready to go. Think of this as your homework!

Organization is key

One of the biggest morning stressors for busy families is managing everyone’s stuff.

Sarah Giller Nelson, owner of Chicago’s Less is More Organizing Services, says that families can create systems to help manage every family member’s gear.

“Before you head back to school, make your entryway fall-friendly. Keep hats, gloves, jackets, and other cool-weather gear within easy reach. Assign each child a hook and a bin for their stuff,” she says.

She also advises creating a checklist of things your family needs to grab before everyone leaves the house each morning: phone, snacks, gloves, etc.

“Use pictures for pre-readers. Post the list on the door so that as you are leaving you can make sure you haven’t forgotten the essentials,” Nelson says.

Attitude is everything

Keep in mind that morning is a transition time for everyone in the family.

Kelley Kitley, mom of four, psychotherapist and the owner of Serendipitous Psychotherapy, frequently works with women on balance and transitions.

Mom and dad have to stay calm, otherwise their anxiety and angst can be contagious. “If the morning is starting to feel stressful, give yourself a timeout and step away for a few minutes before continuing to tackle your to-do list,” she says.

Kitley also recommends that parents keep the morning rush in perspective. “What is the worst that is going to happen if you are late? If you are running behind schedule occasionally, try to embrace it. Maybe you get a couple extra minutes to spend in the car with your kids. That isn’t such a bad thing,” she says.

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