Parenting Win of the Week: Making Mornings Less Stressful

The transition from summer to school doesn't have to be rough. Follow these expert tips!

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Young girl with backpack brushing her teeth in bathroom


Young girl with backpack brushing her teeth in bathroom

Photo by: MoMo Productions

MoMo Productions

My kids head back to school next week and if I am being honest, I will miss the slower pace of summer. There are benefits to the school year, but I have become pretty used to the later camp mornings, sporadic "it’s nice out" plans, and just an overall more relaxed mentality.

The beginning of the school year is always super hectic and getting back to that rushed morning routine can be a struggle.

So, we spoke to Laura Linn Night, a former elementary school teacher and author of the upcoming book "Break Free from Reactive Parenting," who as a parent herself, notes that most of the struggles with a before and after school routine comes down to the power struggles that happen. I think all parents can relate to those struggles, whether it be choosing breakfast or outfits or getting out the door on time.

She gave us great tips on how to have smoother routines moving into the school year. And it’s important to note, she knows that this will look different depending on the ages of your kids, family values, and daily schedule — so feel free to adjust as needed.

Morning Routine

Laura’s first step? She sits down as a family and has her kids help create morning routine charts so everyone knows exactly what they need to do in the morning.

Now, this may look different for younger kids who can’t read — you may want to take photos of them brushing their teeth or clearing their plate from the table. More artsy kids may want to draw out or add glitter and stickers while older kids may prefer a typed list.

And we know, it’s just as easy for you to write it up and hand it to them, but as Laura points out, "You want your child to participate and make sure it’s part of their idea, their routine versus it being a directive." When you do this, it becomes less of a power struggle in the morning.

When we have less of those power struggles, kids are more regulated going into the school day.

Now for breakfast, because we all know food can be a power struggle, Laura asks them what they want the night before and lets them pick from a short list of rotating things, that way everyone is prepared.

Speaking of the night before, she strongly encourages laying out clothes, shoes, and packing at least part of the lunch (knowing some things are better made the morning of). These things tend to be the ones that will trip us up in the morning.

If your kids finish early with time to spare, all the better. You can reward them with a dance party, a family game, or screen time if that’s a part of your morning routine.

After School and Bedtime

After school and night time varies more greatly with families depending on after school activities, how much homework there is, what the commute looks like, and how much sleep your kid needs.

Here’s where Laura really looks to family values, meaning, do you know you have a kid who can’t function without a lot of sleep and bedtime needs to be a priority? Do you want to make sure that family dinner happens every or most nights? Is it important that your kids get physical activity after school?

Once you decide on the non-negotiables, you can build when things happen. Maybe a long commute allows for homework time in the car, like it does in Laura’s house. Or maybe it’s something that happens at a desk after sports.

Laura does emphasize to make sure we give our kids some sort of downtime before jumping right into homework.

"Kids really need to decompress when they get home," she says. "Oftentimes they are so spent that it’s hard for them to answer how their day was."

She suggests having 5-10 minutes to chat about their day — just not right after school.

The after school and bedtime routine may take a bit more trial and error with parents being flexible to what their kids need.

However, kids do thrive on routine, so getting on something that works consistently (especially at bedtime!) will again negate some of those power struggles. Especially when your kids are already tired!


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