Mornings are hard, y’all. Even if you’re a morning person, it can be tough to get the kids up and out the door on time and with everything they need for the day. As we head into another school year, consider this advice for a better morning routine from mom of 10 (yep, you read that right!) Laura Hernandez, a Collin County resident who runs a company called Mama Systems—coaching moms on how to manage their homes more effectively and efficiently.
DFWChild: A good morning starts with a good bedtime routine. Kids often drag their feet though—how should parents deal with that?
Laura Hernandez: First and foremost, parents should plan out what they want the “leading up to bedtime” time to consist of. Are we a “bath every night” kind of family, or every other night? We have specific days where everyone bathes to make sure we stay on top of things. Do you want to read together as a family, or with kids in their rooms? Exactly how many books do you want to read? If your child normally says they are so hungry or dying of thirst in order to escape the room, have a set snack or drink that they can have right before bed, so their tummies are full and you can know in full confidence that they are not going to bed hungry.
Having all of these things set beforehand helps you stand firm and be able to respond very matter-of-factly. It may be tricky for the kids to understand the new guidelines for bedtime at first, but when you are consistent it will go smoother.
MORNING ME TIME
C: Do you recommend moms and dads get up, say, half an hour earlier than kiddos to help get things organized for the morning?
LH: I think getting up before the kids is a great way to start the day, even if it’s just time to drink your coffee, exercise or read so that you can be your best self when your people wake up.
C: What’s the smoothest way to handle wakeups? Alarm clocks, repeatedly hollering their names …
LH: This is tricky, because every child is so different. However, I think kids as young as kindergarten can wake up to an alarm and know what is expected of them when they get up. Likewise, if they are normally up with the sun, they can also learn to stay in their room until a certain time so as not to wake up the rest of the house.
With those you have to drag out of bed, a good strategy is to have an alarm clock in their room—or an Alexa or Google device, where you can set many alarms 5 minutes apart. Have the clock or device set for 10 minutes before they need to actually get up. You can give them a 5-minute warning, and after that, you can go to their room and get them up. If this is a daily thing, there may need to be natural consequences for being late. This may include being tardy at school, or [something additional] if your child doesn’t care about that.
C: In general, how long before the “out the door” time should kids be getting up? Obviously this varies from family to family, but it seems like too much time or too little time could be problematic.
LH: This does vary so much. I like to have everyone up at least 30 minutes ahead of time, just to make sure we have all tummies fed, teeth brushed and all things in hand. However, if a parent is trying to get out to work as well and actually needs to look presentable, I would add 30 minutes to it!
C: Do you have a calendar system or other organizational recommendation for knowing what’s in store for the day?
LH: We actually have a few. We have one for the whole family that is hanging on our wall so that everyone in the home can be aware of what is going on. We have a Google calendar for my husband and my older kids, and I have a paper one that allows me to be more specific in my tasks for the day.
C: Do you recommend packing lunches as much as possible the night before? And are you monitoring the school cafeteria menus in advance?
LH: Yes! And as a parent, you can make this an easy task for your kids to take ownership of. Have things that are easy for them to grab and put in their lunch. We freeze PB&Js, cheese sticks and yogurts so they stay fresher longer. Each child will normally grab a sandwich, a cracker or chip item that is prepackaged, a yogurt, a cheese stick and a cutie orange or an apple.
If what the school is serving affects how you plan, then I would create a time weekly or monthly and note on your calendar the days that you need to do something else.
C: What are your best tips for ensuring kids get breakfast before school?
LH: Do what works best for your family. I think so often we hear what other people are doing and we feel we must change what we are doing or how we are doing it to meet others’ ideals. If having an organic, hot breakfast with the whole family is a priority to you, that is great. However, if mornings are too chaotic, this may not be the best time to schedule a family meal.
We have taught our kiddos how to make their own simple breakfast—toast, oatmeal and cereal—and I know other families that just do breakfast bars or protein shakes in the car since they have long drives.
OUT THE DOOR
C: How do you make sure kids get out the door with everything they need in their backpack—all their homework, everything signed, lunch, water bottles and so on?
LH: Three things:
1. Create a plan.
2. Set clear expectations—when will this happen, where will this happen, and what they are to do.
3. Create space, both physically and with time, to practice and make this happen. The first morning of school is not the time to tell them what is expected. I recommend practicing and doing all of this the night before so there is plenty of time to get it right.
Our family uses our “5 o’clock jobs time.” This is when we are all helping get ready for dinner, but it is also the time where kids get ready for school. They pack lunches, lay out clothes and shoes, and make sure that what they need is in their backpack. Having checklists help little ones build this crucial habit of planning ahead of time.
C: What do you suggest for parents who are always losing what they need to get out the door—keys, phone, wallet, etc.?
LH: Everything needs a home. You can just make sure that you have a place for each individual thing and always keep it in the same spot, or have all these things in one spot. Some sort of command center will help with this immensely. You can keep your family calendar, your keys, wallet, and even charge your phone there the night before so as you are walking out the door you can confirm what the day will look like and grab all of your things.
C: Any other thoughts that would help parents get out the door on time and without too much stress?
LH: Creating plans will always help things go smoother. It may not always turn out like you plan, but it does make it easier to get back on track.
Photo courtesy Rebecca Jones Photography