The return to school mornings after a looooong summer break can feel utterly brutal.
Last year I’d go as far as to say we were at crisis point trying to leave the house. It affected the rest of our day so much and left me with such intense feelings of guilt for losing my sh*t that I realised that some things had to change.
I’ve come a long way in my journey toward being a more organised person and making the following changes to my routine has turned our mornings into an (almost) enjoyable affair.
Establish a consistent night time and bedtime routine.
Did you know that there is a difference between a nighttime routine and a bedtime routine? In our recent interview, Kim Corley from Cherished Sleep explains that bedtime is specifically the 20-30 minutes before bed that “cues your body and mind that the long sleep is coming”. It is a physiological preparation for sleep that involves your body relaxing and unwinding 😴
In contrast, a nighttime routine is all the stuff that needs to be done before winddown can begin, like tidying away toys, completing homework, and getting ready for the next day.
TIP: To establish a good bedtime routine, Kim recommends having 4-6 tasks that are repeated every night, with the specific intention of calming the body and mind. Examples include bath time, diffusing essential oils, listening to relaxing music, completing a meditation, sharing a story, or having quiet snuggles. This is the time when we raise our feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, and gently ease into a restful state. Kim explains that a new routine can be introduced in around 3 days but it can take several weeks to be established and a month for it to become the new “normal”. Key message here is to practice persistence and patience - aka hang in there!!
Our evening checklist is a great tool that covers both nighttime and bedtime steps and can be used as a prompt for your child to help settle into a new routine.
Establishing a good morning routine
There is a vast body of science behind why having a routine is important and how practicing consistency can make a huge difference to our day. To get some inspiration from the big wigs, check out this article https://www.scienceofpeople.com/morning-routine/
For our children, the anchor of a routine reduces stress by taking away the guesswork of what is happening next.
Once the routine is established, it has a massive impact on efficiency with children taking ownership of their tasks, and taking pride in doing so. The autonomy that is created with an established routine has a powerful impact on a child’s self-confidence and is pretty awesome to witness.
One additional benefit of a good morning routine that shouldn’t be overlooked is not having to field constant questions or give constant instruction, about the tasks that need to be done next. “Look at the chart” is perhaps my favourite sentence since we introduced a morning checklist 😁
TIP: We use this morning checklist to share the responsibility of getting out the door. It lives on our fridge, serving as a visual reminder about what needs to get done, with each task being ticked off (with enormous satisfaction) when it has been achieved.
Get enough sleep
More than likely you will be well versed in the reasons that your child needs a night of good sleep, but how strict are you about your own slumber? 🤔
I’m a night owl and because I have my toddler with me during the day, my lights go on when my children’s lights go out. Curbing the desire to work into the wee hours, or have a Netflix date with hubby, has possibly been the hardest change for me to make to my own routine but the difference in my ability to manage my children when I am well rested compared to when I am not, is like night and day (sorry, couldn’t help myself)
TIP: Work backward from the time that you absolutely must be in bed, and create a bedtime routine for yourself that allows you to ease into a restful state of mind rather than hitting the pillow with neurons firing and thoughts bouncing. To ease myself into sleep, I’m a fan of taking herbal tea and a good book to bed, before doing a guided meditation using the insight timer app. I’d love to hear what helps you wind down (discretion please 😅)
For some tips on how to help your child get a better night's sleep, check out this interview with Kim Corley from Cherished Sleep 🌙.
Get organised the night before
Yawn. I find that this is as boring as heck and the last thing I want to do before going to bed, but I do it anyway because I simply cannot face the morning stress that that ensues when we need to hunt for lost shoes, or scramble to find a school form to sign that’s scrunched up and soggy in the bottom of a bag 😱.
TIP: Wherever possible, get your children to prepare their own things for the next day. Depending on their age, they can:
- Lay out clothes, put clean socks beside their shoes.
- Fill water bottle
- Pack school bag as much as possible
- Take out all paperwork and show to parents for signing and returning when necessary
- Return homework to bag
- Pack their lunch box. If you need inspiration, Wick Nixon’s Healthy Lunchbox Guide is a must.
Once the kids are in bed, finishing the following tasks will make your mornings SO much easier
- Clean the kitchen so you wake up to a clean, clear space (if you are someone who is not used to clutter-free spaces, waking up to one is a revelation) 🙌
- Put out breakfast including crockery and cutlery, and if your children eat porridge, soak it overnight because it is faster to cook and better for their digestion
- Do a quick check that everything for the morning is where it needs to be. Knowing where your keys are is always a good way to start the day!
Get up before your kids
Eww. The thought of this was not pleasant before I gave it a whirl but now that I am a seasoned early riser, I can attest that being awake before your kids makes you feel like you are winning. Before I am any use to anyone I serve myself up a hot shower and a strong cup of coffee - that way no-one needs to see me before sweet caffeine is coursing through my veins ☕
If the house is still quiet after my shower and coffee, hello nirvana 💫. I yearn for this quiet time alone and with my current schedule, this is the only time in the day that I can find it. I use these sacred moments to plan my day, meditate, and have some much needed me time so that when my rugrats wake, I am on board to help them out in whatever way they need rather than chasing my own tail.
Make your mornings fun and joyful
Given that school-day mornings are more frequent than any other childhood morning, we owe it to our children to make sure that they are filled with all the right feels 💖
Coming from a mother for whom school mornings were anything but joyful, believe me when I say that changing the morning attitude and approach can be key to having a great start to the day. Shifting from a “hurry up!” to a “hey do you need a hand with that?” mentality will change the whole morning vibe.
TIP: Focus only on the absolute necessities to get the kids out the door. Unless time absolutely allows and you can do it without any stress or hurry, abstain from cleaning the breakfast dishes, loading the washing machine, paying the bills, baking cookies, putting on your makeup - anything that is not ESSENTIAL to you getting out the door, and getting your children to school on time.
When you drop the “should do’s” and focus only on the morning “must do’s”, time opens up for some really lovely things to happen. Extra snuggles, silly stories, walking a slower pace to school, and unexpected, unscripted moments of connection is a pretty amazing trade-off for coming home to a few grubby dishes.