This term, my eight year old started at a new school. Complete with 8.15am start and 35-minute commute. The time had come to master the fine art of ‘getting your kids to school on time every time’.
Exit leisurely brekkie. Enter car door smoothie for Mum and child’s airline lap tray. Nutrition is a priority so I’m not about to compromise on breakfast! Nor do I want to turn into a crazy hair lady with school run anxiety and an unnecessarily stressed child.
So Mary Poppins, what’s the secret to getting our school days off to a sparkling start? Does getting kids to school on time require ‘precision and order’ or a ‘spoonful of sugar’?
In the absence of our umbrella-flying nanny, here’s some simple tricks to help your school mornings run smoothly.
Getting your kids to school on time, every time
Assign places for things like keys and bags
It sounds obvious, but keeping items in the same place and replacing them there every single time saves panic later. It also wires your brain. Good habits practised early set children up for calm, ordered lives. Sean Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens rightly says ‘We become what we repeatedly do’. To make this easier, keep a designated spot for all school items.
Delegation is key to getting your kids to school on time
Have your child organise their own school bag as soon as they return home each day. At any age this means empty and clean lunch box, hand over any notes and check the calendar for the next day. Repack essentials such as hat & homework. Store clean sports gear in a separate cloth bag which ideally fits into a schoolbag.
Get ahead of yourself
Prepare your own work bag/clothes the night before and get packed lunches out of the way early. I do ours whilst cooking dinner. If you can bear the clearing-up, get your kids to start making their own. And remember to stockpile items in the freezer. Mine chooses and packs from Mum’s benchtop buffet. Leave your space as you’d like to find it in the morning. For me, a clean sink is what I like to wake up to, but if I’m too tired, so what. Don’t push yourself if you’ve had a hard day.
Get Good Rest
Practice good sleep hygiene so that regularly going to bed and rising around the same time lessens the need for alarm clocks. Adjust your sleep times gradually if you think you need more time in the mornings. Have a solid school bedtime routine for your children, that allows you some much-treasured me-time before you hit the sack. Find out more about healthy sleep habits from the Sleep Health Foundation.
How to get your kids to school on time, every time (cont.)
Wake up and ‘Feed the birds’
A few deep breaths of fresh spring air first thing is a great way to oxygenate the blood and focus the mind (on that first-of-the-day cuppa for example). Don’t panic, there’s no need for an early morning jog. I used to do yoga stretches, but I now prefer to check the cat hasn’t pooped near the lettuce seedlings.
The best way for a child to learn is to do it themselves. Within reason, obviously. If you have your morning routine down pat they will model what you do. I remember watching my father complete his exactly the same way every single day. Set your kids up for success even if you need special incentives for Mondayitis. The lure of a babychino has helped us out of many a slump.
Keep it real and quit fussing
You don’t need to redecorate the house before 8am. You do need to wash, get dressed, have breakfast and do your teeth and hair. Just like your child! Stay calm and don’t expect too much from your child (you cannot hurry a child who is learning how to tie their laces). That being said, I once took my child to school in pyjamas as she refused to get dressed. Note the word ‘once’. I recently learned to stop nagging (duct tape did the trick) and now make sure my own mask is fitted first. I give gentle time markers, such as a wake up call, a 10, 5 and 2 minute countdown and finally ‘I’m getting into the car now, please shut the door behind you’.
Make time for the important things
Good night cuddles and story, no matter how tired you are, set your child up for a good sleep. Even 5 minutes is enough. Likewise, first thing in the morning remember a loving hug and smile and a favourite song in the car. It’s the simple things that matter. When your child wants to show you something and your heart rate starts escalating … stop faffing, breathe and pay attention.
How to get to school on time everyday (cont.)
Have a mantra before you leave (mine is the 3 C’s – Car, Cash & Cellphone). If it’s a big day and you have more going on, jot it down the night before and post it next to the kettle. I keep my bag in the kitchen so I can pop things into it as I check off the list. Last one out closes the door behind them. Non-essential forgotten items can stay home. It’s ok to leave the bed unmade. It’s not ok to leave the cooktop on or forget to feed the cat. But don’t panic in the traffic, smoke alarms and neighbours can always step in.
Yay, you got your kids to school on time
Remember to smile and enjoy the ride. Who knows, you may even get to have a coffee, do your makeup and eat your breakfast before your ‘other job’ begins.