All parents have, at some point, dealt with mornings where it seemed to take forever to get everyone out the door. And while it might always be a challenge to completely eliminate the rush, a little bit of planning and patience can really help reduce stress.

Make bedtime the same time every night during the school week, even if your child doesn’t go to sleep right away. As well, get your child up at the same time Monday through Friday. Plan on your child needing at least 15 to 20 minutes for personal hygiene and dressing.

Allow enough time for a nutritious breakfast. Studies show that children who eat a balanced breakfast do better in school, are more attentive, and are better behaved. A mix of protein and carbohydrates is best. Carbs (cereals, fruits, and breads) give a quick energy boost, and protein (milk, eggs, meat, and peanut butter) sustains your child until lunch.

Prepare backpacks the night before. If your child has homework, make sure she immediately puts it in her backpack upon completion. This eliminates the “My mom forgot to put it in my backpack” excuse!

Try choosing two outfits of clothing the night before that you both agree will work. Put each entire outfit in a large plastic bag and in the morning, let your child choose which “bag” to wear that day, knowing that the clothes in the other bag can be worn the next day. This empowers your child to make choices and usually takes care of two days at a time.

Set aside at least 15 to 20 minutes to read together at bedtime. This can be done by a parent or an older sibling. This short period of individual attention usually calms a child and eliminates the “getting up” questions that often follow just going to bed.

If your child misplaces belongings such as sneakers, for example, try tracing an outline of the sneakers onto construction paper or contact paper. Then tape the tracings to the child’s closet floor. At bedtime each night, make sure the shoes are sitting on their “feet” in the closet. (The same can be done for lunch boxes, backpacks, boots, etc.)

Encourage your child to talk about the upcoming school day. Planning the tasks your child will accomplish will put him in the right frame of mind to tackle the day.


Teen Mornings

Adolescents are famously sleep-deprived. As with younger children, try to instill a regular bedtime, which should help the mornings go more smoothly.

Tweens and teens generally require more time to get ready in the morning, so build in enough time—at least half an hour—for personal hygiene and dressing.

In addition to homework and backpack, make sure your child gathers any other needed items, such as school library books or outfits for sports practices, the night before. Almost nothing waylays a morning more than hunting around for items like that at the last minute.

Try to make sure older children have their homework completed in enough time to allow them to wind down for a while. Likewise, try to instill a habit of no electronics (cell phones, video games, etc.) for at least an hour before bedtime.

Don’t expect too much. While it would be nice if your child were able to make her bed and tackle a few chores before school, it might not be realistic. Focus on what absolutely must be done to reduce the chaos and forget the rest for now. In time, once a routine is in order, you might be able to add back a small chore or two.

—Elizabeth S. Leaver

Connie McCarthy has been teaching 1st grade in East Providence, R.I., for more than 20 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her SchoolFamily blog, Connie’s Classroom. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults.