Back to School: Rise and Shine

Play date note on brown bag lunch helps kids get-up-and-goBack to School Motivators

Over the summer, your morning routine may have become a bit lax. The kids got to sleep in a little later, stayed in their PJs awhile longer and watched TV an extra hour. So now that school is about to start, how do you get them up and going again without a fight? Well, without "any" struggle might be asking too much - but there are a few things you can do to help reduce the family's stress level in the morning:

A Song or a Rhyme
In the army, soldiers march to rhymes and wake up to songs. It may seem brutal to them, but younger kids get a real kick out of these routines. Whether it's getting dressed to a rhyme and seeing if they can "beat the clock" before it ends, or waking up to a song you sing, this strategy really works. Try this familiar military song to get them up in the morning: "Hut, 2, 3, 4, get your feet up on the floor -- 5, 6, 7, 8, get up or you will be late!

Evening Prep
Every experienced parent will tell you that the more you do the night before to get ready for the next day, the better the morning will go. Pick out clothes in the evening, not when your kids are tired in the morning. Prepare lunches after dinner, or at least decide on what's going in tomorrow's lunch box. Look at the school calendar for any special events the next day. Is a payment due, is there a field trip scheduled? Be prepared with permission slips or checks already filled out so that it's not a hassle during the morning rush.

Special Days
Kids often start to fade by midweek, making the latter part of the week tougher to keep them motivated (not unlike adults!). Planning activities on Wednesdays or Thursdays is often a good way to encourage them in the morning. Just start the drill off with a reminder like "Today is gymnastics" or "You're going to Monica's after school." These little teasers go a long way toward getting their eyes open. Often, the schools have built-in special days, such as Thursday park day or Friday art day.

Break the Monotony
We all like a little variation in our routines, and kids are no different. If you drive your child to school every day and live close enough, plan to walk to school for a change. It's amazing how energized a child can get just at the thought of doing something different. For older kids who ride the bus each day, plan to drive them to school or arrange for a carpool once a week.

Show You Care
There are many opportunities for parent participation in school, from being a speaker on career day to becoming a room mom (or dad) to offering to chaperon a field trip. Most kids look forward to the days when their parent will be at school, so keep them posted on your plans and try to join in on school events as often as your schedule allows.

Breakfast Blahs
We all know how important it is for kids to be well rested and well fed before going to school. But if toast and cereal have lost their luster in your house, try getting up 10 minutes earlier and surprising them with some eggs and sausage. The aroma may raise some eyebrows and make them venture out of bed. Or cook up a batch of pancakes over the weekend and freeze them -- one minute in the microwave and you've got an instant short stack.

Time for You
Do you like to read the paper in the morning, or relax with a cup of coffee for 15 minutes in peace? Since having kids, those days may seem long gone, but you can get them back by making a small change. Get up 30 minutes or more before your family does and take time for yourself. Do a 10-minute workout or just read your favorite magazine -- the idea is to have some uninterrupted time. For best results, get yourself ready for the day before anyone else gets up. That way you won't be rushing out the door still trying to brush your hair or put makeup on.

You may find that your mornings run smoothly for weeks, even months at a time, then suddenly something happens and there's a shift. A swing in the tide may come from a child getting a cold, a three-day weekend or just boredom from doing the same thing day after day. So keep these tips close at hand and refer to them once in a while or when your morning goes from calm to chaos overnight!