The new school year often brings with it a whole rainbow-coloured set of intentions: pristine uniforms all laid out the night before, books, diaries, pens, calendars, all poised at the ready, even lunch negotiated with each child. The first few mornings go splendidly……then, on the fourth day, tempers fray as one child needs to be nagged out of bed, while another announces his left shoe is missing.
Sound all too familiar?? Apparently, school day mornings have been identified as the most stressful time of day for most families. I don’t really like that word, “stress”, so let’s pretend it doesn’t exist in the English vocabulary and follow these tips instead, to help these happy days along!
Getting children to really understand what they’re supposed to be doing is key to reducing this, so-called, stress. Young children like checking off tasks on a chart, and using stickers or adding ticks is often incentive enough. Children who are not yet reading might benefit from parents drawing a toothbrush, a school bag and a bowl of cereal on a board that they can rub out as they go along.
Older children may respond to the same chart, together with a reward they enjoy, such as a little spending money for after-school treats. Give them the money straight away so that they link the reward to the task completed. If they’ve not been co-operating, simply say, “No reward today.” No discussion. No scolding. Let them see you meaning what you say, firm and fair.
Mornings will be less chaotic if you do as much as you can the night before. Ask what equipment or bags are needed for the next day and then have them ready by the front door. Check on their clean clothes. Is there milk for breakfast? Sounds obvious, but so easy to overlook and forget when there’s too much going on, or if we become easily distracted all too often.
If a child continues to be difficult in the mornings, it may be worth taking a big picture view. Why are they being so grumpy? In addition to not understanding what’s expected of them, common reasons may include not getting enough sleep, not being happy at school, being pushed to perform morning tasks too quickly or simply being asked to do things that they just can’t do on their own yet.
Also, some children wake up with really low blood sugar levels and need to eat pretty quickly. If a normally cheerful child is dragging their feet, ask if something upsetting is happening that day. Wanting to sort out all their problems too readily doesn’t lend itself to developing healthy, self-reliant kids, so do listen to them, and offer an adult perspective whenever you sense something is amiss. Often a child can be anxious about one tiny thing. It could be as random as there being peas for lunch on Wednesdays…. and you know how your child hates peas……
So, what else can I add? Oh yes, please don’t lose your sense of humour!! Honestly, seeing the funny side of everything really does ease everything.
Stay as calm as you can, as often as you can. If mum or dad start yelling, then everyone ends up upset….and if breakfast some days is just a mouthful of chocolate milk and a biscuit eaten in the car, then, so be it – it’s all ok!
Just wave goodbye with a smile, breathe deeply, thank the universe for helping you keep it all together and get rid, immediately, of any feelings of guilt! Like most parents, you’re doing the best you can – which, in anyone’s book, is plenty more than good enough!!
Happy new term, everyone – have fun in all the frolicking, while teaching your kids to do the same!!