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Back to School: How to Make Mornings Easier

In this segment of our Back to School Series, we look at how to make mornings less stressful during the school year.

If you're the parent of school-age children, probably the thing you're looking forward to the least about the start of school are those rushed and stressful mornings as you try to get your kids out the door. But Renette Wardlow, human development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, says hectic schedules and hurried breakfasts don't have to be a part of the morning routine once school starts back up.

She suggests trying to be as organized as possible and getting as much done as you can the night before.

"Having things laid out, having a plan, trying to follow that plan, with being, of course, somewhat flexible. But the morning time stress is something that I don't think can be completely avoided because things happen, but the more organized you are ahead of time, having clothing laid out, food and so forth would be helpful."

According to Wardlow, you should get kids involved in the organization process as early as possible. For example, even young children can choose an outfit and get it ready for the next day so it doesn't have to be done in the morning.

"Those parents who don't allow their child to make a choice or to pick out their own things, they learn very early, 'well, my mom or my dad will do it for me,' and they just learn not to do it at all for themselves."

Wardlow says you need to make sure there's time for kids to eat breakfast. She calls it brain food. And you need to make sure your kids are getting enough sleep.

"Nine, ten hours wouldn't be too much. Some children do sleep a little more, the younger ones, and as children get older, high school age and so forth, they seem to sleep less, but they really do require more sleep. But they're so busy, have so many activities that they aren't getting enough sleep and, as a result, kids are falling asleep in school. And if they're sleeping they're not studying, they're not learning."

Have a set bedtime for your kids on school nights so they know what's expected. Wardlow says having to nag kids to get up in the mornings when they haven't gotten enough rest gets the day off to a bad start.

"They go off to school and they're already angry, and that can create some behavior problems at school, which, in addition to that, creates problems for the parent at work, worrying and frustration and so forth. The best way to avoid that is to make sure the child is getting enough sleep. Perhaps maybe a little bit earlier the next night. The more organized you are, too, the less frustrating it will be and the less conflict will come up."

She says nagging, begging and pleading are not effective motivators and can even cause a cloud of gloom to gather over the household. Depending on the maturity of the child, she says, an alarm clock coupled with responsibility for using it, may be appropriate.

Not only should you try to help your kids get the day off to a good start, you should also make sure it ends on a positive note. One way you can do that is by making sure your family eats dinner together.

"That's the time where things should be discussed, family issues, a time to share, a time to have fun, and because everyone's so busy, oftentimes they're eating on the run and there are times when young children don't really spend time with the entire family."

While there are things you can do to minimize the stress of getting kids out the door each morning, Wardlow admits there will be days when everything seems to go wrong. She says organization and communication can help maintain a family's sanity, but even at the best of times there are questionable moments. That's just part of raising children.

For KSMU News, I'm Michele Skalicky.