As a full-time working mother of three children, it has always been important for me to establish a solid daily routine to prepare our children during the school year. Whether it is a school night or weekend, establishing a regular schedule is a major part of helping your child become self-sufficient as they mature.
The relaxing days of an unstructured summer have to make way for the frenetic school year, a rude awakening not only for the kids but for the parents as well. When school starts, be prepared, be consistent and be organized otherwise you're going to have a bumpy ride!
Tip #1 Always have a regular bed time
Generally from preschool through elementary school, it is critical to establish a regular bed time. Too often though, the weekends become a bit unstructured and wake-up times are less harried. What we have learned the hard way is the more consistent you keep everyone's bedtime the better. Avoid late night activities that get your kids too hyped up to go to bed on time. For instance, don't decide to take them to a movie that ends past their bedtime unless you're prepared for a morning full of chaos. And don't plan sleepovers that really turn out to be "wake-overs" because most kids do not sleep well because of the excitement. The biggest rule in our home is keep bed time the same throughout the week as much as possible.
Tip #2 Avoid sweets and treats late at night
Along with a regular bedtime schedule throughout the week is avoiding too much sugary or caffeinated beverages that prevent a peaceful night's rest. We avoid sodas altogether in our home, so this is not a problem. But my kids and I have a sweet tooth. So I eliminate any sugary foods at least two hours before bed. Otherwise they might have a fitful night's sleep.
Tip #3 Get lunches ready the night before
One of the best tips that worked for us is to prepare school lunches the night before. That way there isn't a last-minute rush to find sandwich bags, lunch boxes or lunch money the next morning. Initially I made the school lunches when the children were little. But each year they began helping me more and more until they took over the task entirely of making their own lunch. Today that task has been fully transitioned to the kids. I do make sure to purchase whatever they make for their lunch so I know they are eating healthy.
Tip #4 Backpack Check
Typically on Friday the kids have loads of completed school work to review and papers to sign. But the weekend can get crazy with sporting events and other appointments so the paperwork often gets overlooked. So always have a reminder for yourself to empty out your children's backpacks every Friday evening and review important paperwork. Sign all papers, review homework assignments and make sure all books are returned to the bag by Sunday night. Otherwise you might be like my friend and find 7 moldy PB&J sandwiches staring at you from the backpack. Yikes!
Tip #5 Avoid the "What to Wear" Conundrum
One of the biggest hassles every morning is getting the kids dressed for school. Don't allow them to have choices when they are young and need help getting dressed. Set aside their outfit for the next day so they can quickly get dressed before breakfast. Once they are older they can make their own clothes selection and stick to the morning routine.
Tip #6 Get the breakfast stuff ready
I go so far as getting our breakfast items ready and putting them on the table for the next day. It's just one less thing to think about. Bowls, spoons, and cereal boxes go on the table and just await the milk from the fridge the next morning. Often my children prefer waffles or pancakes. We make homemade pancakes and waffles for Sunday breakfast and freeze the extras. I take a Ziploc bag and freeze them for quick breakfasts in the morning. Just pop them in the toaster or microwave. It's essential that my children eat breakfast each morning. It makes a huge difference in their performance at school and avoids any hunger pains until their next meal.
Tip #7 Set the alarm clocks
I stopped waking up my kids when they were about 8 or 9 years old. By then they had their own alarm clock and set it each night. Start disciplining your children to wake up on their own when they are in elementary school. Then the responsibility moves from you to them to get up on time. A few days of being late for school is fine when they are little; it's making sure they are disciplined to do this by the time they are in middle and high school. The key is figuring out how much time it takes to get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth and get out the door with lunches and back packs all ready to go. Then set the alarm clock based on how long that takes with a little bit of leeway built-in.
Tip #8 Backup Plans
Whether the kids go to school by car, bike or bus, it's best to have a backup plan established if one of their transportation methods falls through. If my husband is traveling for business, I have a plan in place in case he was going to take them to school. A few neighbors and I back each other up in case of a conflict. It gives us all peace of mind knowing we have each other to rely on. If a child forgets their school lunch, our back up is that each of them has enough money to purchase the school lunch. I also provide a list of emergency phone numbers to each of my children. They can call them if there's ever an emergency and they cannot get hold of me. Think about what backup plans you may need and take care of them before school starts.
So take a few tips from a seasoned mother of three children who's been getting the kids to school on time for years. As a matter-of-fact, in 13 years of shuttling kids back and forth to school, we never once had a late arrival!
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