As a teacher, I have seen kids show up to school on an empty stomach, in a thin T-shirt (in the middle of winter) and with hair that hasn't seen a shower in weeks. I didn't see this at a poor school. These were middle-class kids. They had access to proper hygiene and enough food at home, but these things weren't prioritized in their morning routines. Parents are understandably busy before their days begin, and kids are left to their own devices to get ready and to school on time.
This independence may work for older children, but younger children need help to arrive at school clean, fed, with hair combed and with clothing clean and neat. Think about it: do you feel good when your mouth is dirty or when your clothes stink? Can you concentrate when you are hungry? Children's needs are the same. I do not spend an enormous amount of time with my child every morning before school, but I insist on spending a minimum of 30 minutes with her to make sure she starts her day off correctly.
These early years of school are critical in shaping your young child's expectations and routine for mornings. Consistency is very important. Your child needs to know when she wakes up for school she will be well-rested, have time to eat a good breakfast and even have time to talk with you about her upcoming day.
Here are 6 things to do to help your young school-aged child find success.
1. Go to bed earlier
School is early. It stinks, but it is a fact. Young children need a lot of sleep. They can get by without a nap in the afternoon at this age, but they cannot get by on inadequate sleep, especially when they are required to sit for as long as they are at school. You don't want your child's desk at school to be where she catches up on her Zzzzzzs. Also, I can barely do math when I am well-rested; I don't have a prayer if I am sleepy.
2. Don't yell
Listen - waking up in the morning is the last thing on earth anyone wants to do, and kids are no exception. No one likes to be woken up. The only thing that gets me out of bed each morning is having something to look forward to that day. It can be the simplest things: a good breakfast, a good book to read, etc. Parents can be what children look forward to seeing each morning. Pull the curtains back, turn on the lights and wake up your child in person with a smile (as opposed to the alternative of yelling through the bedroom door).
We have a mudroom next to the garage, and we make sure backpacks and coats are packed and ready for the next morning and hanging in the mudroom the night before. We also have a hamper with clean clothes and socks for the next day and a basket of shoes as well. Have everything your child will need for school easily accessible or laid out the night before.
4. Help your child
Yelling, "Hurry! Hurry!" every few minutes will leave you both frustrated and likely ... late. This also sends a young child to school feeling anxious, rushed and possibly ashamed, especially if you say things like, "You are so slow!" or, "You made me late!"
Instead, help her with everything: from laying out her clothing to helping her rinse out hair conditioner. You aren't doing it for her; you are helping her to do things quickly that normally take her longer due to her age. Also, while you help her, talk to her about the positive things that will happen that day. Work together; it makes a big difference. Give her a high five when she does things quickly on her own.
5. Keep spares
Keep spare toothbrushes and toothpaste in the kitchen.We have a round Tupperware container containing a toothbrush for each child and some toothpaste. It's stored in the spice cabinet. When mornings are rushed, I can allow my child extra time to finish her breakfast because she doesn't have to leave the kitchen to brush her teeth. It also makes bedtime routines go smoother to have toothpaste and a toothbrush handy where we all hang out.
Whatever your morning routine, make time somehow for devotion. We pray over breakfast. We pray before heading out the door to face the day. If there is time, we read a few scriptures. Also, say "I love you" often in the morning. Before my husband leaves for work, my children run toward him and say, "Hugs, kisses! Hugs, kisses!" They know he won't head out the door before he gets a hug and a kiss.
Additionally, I like to turn on beautiful music in the morning. Just the simple act of putting some bread in the toaster and taking the time to sit down to eat in the morning can make waking up not so bad. If you wake up and you are not ill, hungry or cold, it is a good morning indeed. Remember to say it to those around you, "Good morning!"
Alicia is a mother to four children, including identical twin boys. She is also a former high school English teacher. She writes about family and home on her blog. She enjoys the funny things her children do and say and is the author of Motherhood or The Widening Gap Between Showers (available on Amazon).