School Mornings: How To De-Stress Your Routine And Start The Day Off Right

15 Steps To De-Stress School Mornings
Two grade school age children walking to school or school bus stop.
Two grade school age children walking to school or school bus stop.

This post is part of Stress-Less Parenting Club's new workshop. Check out previous posts here, and if you haven’t signed up yet, go to the purple box on the right side of this page to receive our weekly newsletter.

You can't wear that sundress to school -- it's too cold outside! Put on something warmer! Where are your shoes? Your hair looks like a rat's nest! Where's your backpack? Oh no, we're out of cold cuts for sandwiches! Where did I put that permission form for the school trip to the zoo?

School mornings can easily turn into complete fiascos. One little thing can throw off the whole morning. Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest, the leaders of our second Stress-Less Parenting workshop, emphasize in their new book Minimalist Parenting the importance of having predictable routines to "streamline they rhythm of the school day." As Asha writes in her new blog post, "the more I was able to create simple, repeatable routines for myself and the kids, the more time-efficient we all became. Everything, from getting ready for school to packing lunches to managing the after-school backpack explosion and weeknight cooking, got easier and took less time (which meant more time to relax)."

For this week's workshop, Christine and Asha offer their best advice for starting school mornings off right:


We’ve found that the best “getting ready for school” routine begins the night before. Think of it as setting up the dominoes before the effortless knockdown in the morning. As your kids get older, hand the elements of the routine over to them.

* Lay Out Clothes
* Detangle Hair
* Get a Head Start on Lunch Packing
* Line Up Backpacks and Lunch Bags
* Run and Empty the Dishwasher
* Set Out the Breakfast Dishes
* Sign Permission Slips, Gather Milk Money, Etc
* Get After-School Necessities Together

The keys to a mostly successful morning launch are to have a plan and to stay calm. Getting sucked into the drama and cranky morning moods escalates the bad feelings all around. Try to project cool confidence (pretend if you must) -- hopefully, the kids will take your behavior cues. How the plan actually looks is up to you and your situation. Variables include the presence of other helpful (and awake) adults, the number and ages of your kids, whether or not you’re getting ready for work at the same time, distance to school, and general “morning person” temperaments. Keep in mind that no routine is perfect out of the gate -- routines are meant to be tweaked. No matter how your routine shapes up, the more you model “first we do this, and then we do that,” the sooner your kids will do it themselves.

Wake Up Earlier Than Your Kids
Try to get up at least 10 minutes before the kids do. Not only do you deserve some alone time with your coffee, you’ll feel more in control when the action begins.

Encourage Your Kids to Use an Alarm Clock
Get an alarm clock for each of your kids and begin using it, no matter their ages. The sooner kids get used to waking themselves, the easier everyone’s mornings will go.

Swap Morning Wake Ups
If your kids have different wake-up times, swap which parent gets up first each morning.

Say Yes to Breakfast
A good breakfast is a must for a productive school day, and it’s a nice time to connect before everyone goes their separate ways. Even late sleepers and those with tiny morning appetites need to eat, so try to make breakfast a priority.

Preview the Day With Your Kids
Get in the habit of previewing the day with your kids to remind them about upcoming events and tasks, and to get them in the habit of planning ahead.

Set Time “Signposts”
Try to break the morning routine into its natural “shifts” -- for example, breakfast, getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, heading out the door. The shifts will be unique to your specific routine. Next, attach times to each shift, such as “breakfast is finished at 8 a.m.” Kids can better pace themselves when they’re aware of their progress through the routine.

End on a High Note
No matter how the morning goes down, try to end with a positive send-off. You’re working on building habits, and there will be good days and bad days. In the grand scheme of things, progress counts more than straight-line success. Besides, no one will remember the tardy passes in a few years.


Streamline your school morning routine. Pinpoint the things that typically make school mornings stressful for you, and discuss with your partner and children how you can handle them better. Try integrating some of Christine and Asha's tips into your routine and let us know in the comments how it goes.


What are the toughest parts of school mornings for you? What have you done in your house to make them go smoother? As you think about this week's challenge, we also invite you to leave your thoughts and tricks in the comments or to tweet them to us @HuffPostParents.

Excerpted with permission from Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest (Bibliomotion, March 2013).

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