Back To School – Mindful Mornings

Morning Madness
Mindful Mornings

Parents: Do you ever feel like you’ve already been through a whole day after you’ve gotten the kids off to school? I know I do, and I’m glad I’m not alone.

When over 2000 parents were surveyed by Kelloggs – NutriGrain about their back-to-school morning routines and school year resolutions, it was found that over the course of a week,
we spend the equivalent of a full day’s paid work getting our families ready for the school day, with an average of 43 daily tasks checked off before the school bell rings!

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The 43 jobs a parent does before work:
Commuting to work
Brushing teeth
Getting yourself dressed
Making breakfast for the kids
Getting the kids to brush their teeth
Packing and making your own lunch to take to work
Ferrying the kids to school
Packing the kids’ school bag
Cleaning dishes / packing the dishwasher
Putting a washing load on
Preparing for any after-school clubs (e.g. packing sports kit)
Filling up coffee holder/water bottle
Making/eating breakfast
Brushing the kids’ hair
Searching for misplaced items (e.g. kids’ clothing, homework etc..)
Getting the kids up and dressed
Getting the kids to finish their homework
Packing and making the kids’ school lunch
Making the beds
Filling out permission slips
Wiping surfaces
Polishing school/work shoes
Feeding the pets
Making a to-do list or shopping list for the day
Organising medical appointments (doctor/dentist/) or picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy
Arranging childcare
Defrosting food for dinner that evening
Scrolling through social media
Putting away toys
Ironing work/school clothes
Applying makeup / grooming
Folding/putting away clothes
Organizing play dates
Having a shower/bath
Drying/styling hair
Checking/responding to emails/messages
Paying bills
Taking the bin out
Exercising / going for a run / to the gym
Watering the plants
Reading the news/weather
Walking the dog
Locking up (doors, windows, setting alarm)

No pun intended, but does this “ring a bell” for you?

Reflecting on what might be helpful to making back-to-school mornings run smoothly, some of the best, experienced parents and experts on child/family development (in my opinion) were surveyed – the staff at Pediatric Therapeutics! When asked about what they do or did at home to pave the way for successful mornings, ease stress, and prepare/organize for the school day, they responded with the following, which included tasks they do “the night before”, “the morning off” and generally getting kids in the zone of helping or getting their bodies to feel ready for the day. We hope you find these suggestions helpful…

THE NIGHT BEFORE strategies:

We left for school ungodly early, so clothes out night before, backpacks/medical supplies all packed and by door night before, lunch made night before with reminder note on door so no one forgot lunch, and deciding what’s for breakfast night before and prep if it was to be eaten in car/bus.

Backpacks were packed the night before on their “hooks” ready to be grabbed.  If there were additions or things that were different, the boys used sticky notes on mirrors or bedroom doors as reminders

Each child had a spot they could lay things out.  Most of the time our kids wanted to take their lunches which meant we put them together the night before while listening to fun music, talking and dancing.  I would have the various pieces ready for them to put together.  If they made their lunch- they ate their lunch.  

The best start for responsibility was to have kids empty out their lunch bags when they got home.  Lunches are usually made the night before…Mom has the school drinks and snacks in one spot so they can grab and fill in an assembly manner. Chilled stuff is prepared and gets added to the bag in the morning…. 

THE MORNING OF strategies:

One of my kids preferred to use a visual schedule, which changed to words once he was reading, that demonstrated the sequence of what needed to be done before leaving… As a last resort as they got older and more forgetful, I put up a list on the door in the morning so everyone could see it.  It might have said DO YOU and then below “have your backpack?  Your lunch?  Your soccer uniform?  Your cleats?  Your history project?”  etc. etc. so that once they were in the car or the carpool car, there were no “do overs”!!!

In the beginning of the school year, we use a visual checklist that each kid can check off in their preferred color that includes everything they need to do in the morning. This prevents my nagging reminders. Sometimes the kids get into competition with each other as to who can complete it first, and that gets them to move more quickly! After a few weeks, the kids get into a routine and seem to no longer need the list (although it often comes out again after winter break!).

No screen time in the morning….OR…My kids get up early and watch a show while eating breakfast. This works for me because it allows me time to shower and get ready without interruption. TV goes off 45 minutes before we have to leave and stays off.

We literally did the EXACT same thing every school morning: so they ALWAYS knew what to expect and the routine was second nature. it was pretty monotonous but it worked! …I organized everything… because if I was calm, they were calm

Keeping in the realm of a “calm” parent…

I get up earlier than the kids so I have a half hour to myself to drink coffee, move/stretch and breathe, and mentally prep for my work day and the kids’ line-up of activities, so that I am ready for whatever might come my way once the rush happens, be it a kid’s mood or emotional need, a work text letting me know that there’s a change in my schedule, a request to help with carpools, etc.

I got up earlier than my son to make our lunches –especially since he had a peanut allergy and it was less anxiety provoking for him if he brought food from home…I showered and dressed before waking him up…Let him eat breakfast in his pj’s, so spilling wasn’t a concern.

Other ideas to getting kids into the zone of helping and/or being ready for the day include…

For my older one, she likes to sweep the garage, which helps her get into helping mindset and the younger likes to swiff. The movement with easy work helps get them in mindset to do the other things.

My son is aware that he benefits from movement to get him going in the morning. If it’s nice out, he will request to swing outside while waiting to leave. On rainy/snowy days, he will ride the exercise bike or bounce on a pogo ball.

We live close to school so kids often walk or ride their bikes to school before they have to sit most of day.

We talk about and choose “go foods” versus “slow foods” when making breakfast and assembling lunches. Get kids to be aware of what foods make them feel alert versus slow/tired. A variety of foods to meet both oral-sensory (textures, temperatures, flavors, etc.) and nutritional needs is important to getting us through long days of school, after-care and activities. For example, my daughter loves yogurt tubes and drinks but also makes sure to pack crunchy snacks like pretzels or veggie sticks.

All in all, Sheila Allen, OT and co-director stated it best. Changing habits takes considerable time…weeks, months.  Be realistic…target what’s most important to both you and your kids (always ask them), keeping in mind that sleep, movement, good food and time together with loved ones are foundational.  Ask “what needs to be done to ensure what’s foundational and also successfully meet the challenges of a student’s lifestyle and balance work/play/leisure/self care?”

Mornings through nights, and all the events in between, the staff at Pediatric Therapeutics is here to help your children and families with this transition to back-to-school. Please leave a message in the comments and share the strategies that work for you!

~ Liz Duffy, Occupational Therapist and Mom of a 3rd and 5th grader


Inspiration from this blog came from:

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