Written by Elaine Tan Comeau
Breathe. Inhale, exhale, and repeat.
That’s right, the crazy hectic mornings of “Back to School” are just around the corner. Local newspapers are full of Back To School shopping flyers and supermarkets have aisles stocked with bright displays of pencils, binders, crayons and markers! Whether your children are the ones who wake up early during the summer holidays, ready to play outside, or they sleep in late like time is irrelevant, studies show that the morning routine is the toughest one to get back on track, especially when school is back in session!
One in four school-aged children are dealing with issues of anxiety, as there is pressure and anticipation mounting on all levels; this so called “school stress” hits not only children, but parents as well. As much as we think having that first cup of coffee before the kids wake up will do the trick, we need to be more ready than that!
Surveys, articles and websites show that the most stressful time of day for moms is the morning routine. One website I found stated that 8:25AM was the most stressful time of day for moms.
Being a mom of three, a School Teacher, Canadian Mompreneur of the Year (2014), and Founder of Easy Daysies Visual Routines for Kids, as well as a Parent/Educational Speaker, and Podcaster on the Elaine’s Kitchen Table Podcast, I often get asked what my secrets are.
So, here are my “5 Must-Know Tips for Stress Free S.U.P.E.R. Back To School Mornings!”
1. S – Start Now! Don’t wait for the first day of school; back to school prep should start two weeks before school starts! It takes about 21 days to develop a habit but for children, 14 days is perfect to establish routine. Easy Daysies is all about making making good habits stick and helping busy families have easier days, that is how it got its name! Begin by starting bed time a bit earlier, slowly reaching the desired bed time by the week before school starts. This also means start waking the kids up early too.
A side note: How much sleep should our children be getting? According to the National Sleep Foundation who says that 60% of children under 18 complained abut being tired during the day and 15% admitted falling asleep in the classroom, here is what they have to say: Teens (ages 14-17) need 8-10 hours of sleep, school aged children (6-13) need 9-11 hours of sleep, and preschool aged children (3-5) need 10-13 hours.
2. U – Up You Get! Wake up 30 minutes before the kids. When you get ready first it is much less stressful, you get some alone time without anyone pulling at you, you are less rushed and more cheerful to help the kids get ready. It is like showing up early for an important meeting, you just do not want to feel that same anxiety you would have if you were late for an important meeting. Whatever anxiety you have will be passed on to your children and you do not want to do that!
3. P – Prep the Night Before: get lunches packed, homework done and planners signed, clothes laid out and back packs packed. This will save you tons of time and arguments in the morning! This is a life habit and life skill you want to teach your children. They will transfer this skill of planning ahead and being prepared into their studies and into their first job interview!
4. E – Easy Access Breakfast. Have it all accessible so that the kids can get everything they need to have breakfast on their own. Have healthy choices in a low reach cupboard because breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. Studies show that 20% of children skip breakfast and that skipping breakfast is linked to many problems such as lack of concentration, unhealthy weight gain, and the list goes on. Some quick breakfasts for the older kids who have to run out the door for band and sports practice can include granola bars, breakfast bars high in fibre, fresh or dried fruit, and dried cereal.
Yogurt contains probiotic bacteria that helps regulate certain brain neurotransmitters that rule mood, and may help lessen anxiety and depression. (Study done by PNAS, healthychildren.org)
5. R – Routine, Routine, Routine! Dr. Karen BeBord,a PhD, child development specialist (for North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service) states that routines are good, as they help alleviate stress and that it is important to set up a daily routine. She says that establishing a regular bedtime, wake up time, and bath time are important at any age as it helps children to learn to develop routines themselves. Studies show that children as young as preschool age benefit from visual routines because they co-operate better and are less anxious when they know what is happening next.
I had so many parents ask me to create a visual routine for them at home to help their children be more cooperative and get out the door faster in the morning, similar to a visual schedule I had made for the front of my classroom. I made visual routines by parent demand for many years before it became the product called Easy Daysies (available at stores, including Staples Canada and Barnes & Noble USA). My heart now smiles every time I receive an email sharing how families are having easier days!
So pat yourself on the back, because you read this blog, you are already ahead of the game and ready to tackle the dreaded back to school mornings. Start implementing your S.U.P.E.R mornings and you and your children will be so glad when school-time rolls around!
Elaine Tan Comeau is a Mom of Three, Wife, Award Winning Entrepreneur and Educator, Creator of Easy Daysies Magnetic Schedules for Kids, Dragons’ Den Winner and 2014 Canadian Mompreneur® of the Year, and host of Elaine’s Kitchen Table Podcast.