Every Minute Counts
02/24/2016 01:04PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez
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The morning madness… the rush to get to school. Kids scrambling to put their shoes on, (hopefully on the correct feet), while also eating breakfast and dripping orange juice down the front of their shirts as they run out of the door to the bus stop. So many families know this morning frenzy and stress all too well and it has even become “routine” for a lot of us. In many cases there is some fussing and whining (yes even from the adults), but there are some strategies that can make this process easier, setting your family up for success and creating the opportunity for your children to get to school on time and ready to learn. Try considering some of the following steps to make your mornings more pleasant and productive:
1. Have a Nightly Routine
Each night, before the kids are off to sleep, have a set of routine steps that they are to complete to ensure the morning goes smoothly. They should be in bed at a decent time so that in the morning they are fully rested. Homework should be completed long before bedtime and instead, something relaxing right before bed such as reading a book or listening to a story should be considered. Making the bedtime routine less stressful will also help making the morning routine more manageable.
2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Another important piece that can happen before the morning madness, is having things ready and prepared ahead of time. Lunches can be made ahead of time and clothes can also be picked out. This could even be done once for the entire week on Saturday or Sunday to avoid future nightly stress before bed. The “grab and go” theory really does work- if things are already prepared, kids can just grab them and go! This is especially effective on those mornings when everyone seems to struggle to get going.
3. Build in “Wake-Up” and “Mishap” Time
Setting the alarm for 15 to 20 minutes before you actually need to get up will build in some “wake-up” time and extra time in the event that a mishap should occur (i.e. spilled milk, someone falls and gets hurt, icy windshield etc). Children also need those few minutes to wake up and get going first thing in the morning. It’s even a good idea to take a few minutes to snuggle with your child and help them wake up in a happy and loved mood. Taking five or 10 minutes to wake up and then building in the same amount of time for an unexpected event will lead to a more positive and productive routine.
4. Create an Energetic Environment
Once you have given everyone a few minutes to wake up, turn on some tunes! Music is a wonderful mood-booster and a way to help energize children. Throwing in some dance moves while getting dressed and brushing teeth never hurt anyone either. Open the blinds and turn on the lights to make it an “awake” atmosphere. Dim lights and a quiet house make it hard for little ones to understand the reality of morning. Creating an environment that is friendly and fun is an excellent way to get them going.
5. Model Routine Behaviors
Showing your children that you get up and get going with a positive attitude will show them that they can also do the same! I know this can be a challenge, because adults are human too, but modeling those routine behaviors are super important when convincing them of their importance. Kids do as we do, not as we say.
6. Use Teacher Tricks.
Ever walked into your child’s classroom and noticed sticker charts and color-coded everything? Well these tricks can also work at home! Sticker charts can be used to reward children when they stay on schedule. You could even create a timeline for them for getting ready (i.e. 7:00 a.m. wake up; 7:05 a.m. get dressed; 7:10 a.m. eat breakfast; 7:20 a.m. brush teeth etc.) and for every task they complete on time, they receive a sticker. Once they have a certain amount of stickers, they receive an award (i.e. a special snack or activity after school or on the weekend). Timelines and sticker charts can be great solutions to the morning time-crunch. Parents can also designate “jobs” for each child; for example, one child is in charge of leading the morning routine, one child is in charge of locking up, etc. and the jobs can rotate each week. Giving children responsibilities and jobs can help build responsibility and motivation as they realize they are contributing members of the family and not just “rule-followers” of mommy and daddy’s regime.
7. Foster Independence
Teach your children to do parts of their morning routine without your help. Place breakfast items and lunches on bottom shelves of the refrigerator and pantry. Keep clothes in an area they are able to reach and practice these behaviors with them in the evening and on the weekend so that mornings can so smoothly.
8. Stay Calm and Allow for Natural Consequences
You’re running out of the door and hear, “I forgot I need this paper signed!” You’re trying to start the car and a pen is nowhere to be found. Instead of getting upset, remember to stay calm and that everything will work itself out. If a stressful situation such as this arises, instead of fussing and arguing, allow your child to suffer the natural consequences. It is okay. It does not make you a bad parent. If the paper is not signed, your child will learn the valuable lesson of making sure these things are done ahead of time. He or she can explain the situation to the teacher and hopefully you will be able to sign the paper that evening or email the teacher once you get to work, or back home if you are a stay at home mommy or daddy. It is greatly beneficial for children to learn to be problem solvers and how to stay calm in stressful situations.
9. Have a Special Place for Important Items
Keep all things needed for the morning in a convenient, designated area. This includes keys, backpacks, possibly shoes, any important papers, etc. Having everything ready to go and in a certain area will help keep things easy and calm when it is time to depart.
10. Hug and Kiss Them Goodbye, No Matter What
Okay, so we know that regardless of how many strategies you use, or how wonderful of a parent you may be, mornings are not always going to be perfect, and there may be days that are more stressful than others. But, there is never a bad time for letting your children know you love them. No matter what happens, it is so important that before they leave for school, that you let them know you care and hope they enjoy their day at school. Any disagreements or negative behaviors can be discussed after school. This will help them leave any stress from the morning behind and get to class focused and ready to learn.
Cumberland County Schools has implemented the “Every Minute Counts” initiative this year to reinforce the importance of students getting to school on time. We are proud to say that the frequency of students being tardy has dropped 42 percent as a result. With this trend, we can expect their achievement to grow as a result of being present in class. We ask you to help us with this goal and hope that these tips and tricks will help make your morning madness a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable!