You couldn’t wait for the kids to go back to school, but two weeks into the academic year and you wish you could turn back the clock to the carefree days of summer. What happened? No matter how well we plan, the shift from the lazy-days-of-summer to a busy back-to-school schedule can feel seismic—abrupt and disorienting.
I have four kids and I remember their elementary, middle and high school years and the overwhelm I felt trying to manage everything I needed to do like filling out endless forms and permission slips, hustling homework, preparing lunches, driving carpools, shuttling between sports practices and dance rehearsals and more.
My kids have families of their own now. When I’m asked for suggestions about how to ease school pressures, I respond from the perspective of a seasoned grandparent and a professional organizer for more than fifteen years. My experience with overwhelmed, stressed-out families has led me to develop techniques helpful to reducing anxieties that can come from many different sources.
Stress can be a killer—not just to family harmony, but also to physical well-being. When the mind feels stressed, adrenal glands release “the stress hormone” cortisol into the bloodstream, causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The biological “fight or flight” response takes over, that very same response that protected mankind since cave dwellers were stalked by saber-toothed tigers. Modern day stressors work the same way, activating cortisol, and putting a strain on mental and physical health. No one should feel like they have to run for their lives every weekday morning.
Just as every peaceful morning begins with a good night’s sleep, the smoothest morning routine – one that’s free from stress and conflict – begins the night before. Here are some simple evening and morning rituals to help bring you sweet dreams and organized days:
- Make lunches the evening before school mornings. Include younger children in making lunches. Getting them involved in meal preparation teaches great skills and increases appreciation. Older kids can easily Face Time with friends or post their efforts while preparing the next day’s Instagram-worthy lunch.
- Review with your children everything they will need for the next day, including permission slips, sports uniforms and equipment, musical instruments, homework, etc. Supervise getting everything in backpacks and placed by the door before bedtime.
- Have children, even teens, lay out their clothes for the next day. Wardrobe indecision in the morning can be likened to an uncontrollable monster, creating anxiety in kids, conflict with parents and taking huge bites out of the precious and precarious morning timetable.
- Prepare yourself for the morning by prepping coffee and breakfast, filling your gym bag, packing your briefcase, writing down appointments and shopping lists and performing any other tasks that must be accomplished before you leave the house.
- Unwind. Taking time to treat yourself right is key to mental and physical longevity. Whether it’s taking a warm bath, writing in a journal, meditating or doing some tension-releasing stretches, everyone functions and feels better after treating themselves well. And be sure to turn off phones and screens as early as possible. Blue light from electronic devises could interfere with a sound night’s sleep.
- Self-Care. Monday through Friday, try to wake up before your kids do. This quiet, alone time is golden. It is your time to do things that make you feel happy and aligned and in gratitude. Rituals like intentionally breathing in and out slowly five times, savoring your coffee, dancing to your favorite song, lighting candles, meditating, watering your garden, or taking a bracing shower followed by unrushed hair and make-up can help you feel centered and ready to say good morning to your kids. Choose to do what energizes you as your time allows. You may find yourself waking up a little bit earlier to make more early morning self-care time!
- Wake up kids with a smile. When running late, stressed about work, or thinking about anything other than setting up kids for a wonderful day, it’s easy to succumb to harsh voices or ultimatums, which doesn’t feel good for anyone! Try to wake your kids with a smile, hug, or a positive thought to start everyone’s day on a positive note.
- Turn up the music. Now isthe time to turn on the beats! Allow kids to take turns choosing the morning music, and enjoy the mood-lifting, energizing, bonding experience of singing (and even dancing) your way through a sunny morning.
- Spread out the responsibilities. Kids’ chores needn’t be reserved for after school, after dinner or weekends. When everyone pitches in on weekday mornings, getting ready on time becomes much more manageable. Walking the dog, setting the table, cracking the eggs, pouring the juice… whatever your child’s age and capabilities, there can be a small job for everyone.
- Breathe your way to calm. When the unexpected does arise, and it will, have your kids join you in taking in three deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth – to calm down mind and body.
I hope the time and calm you gain from these evening and morning rituals will make school mornings more peaceful and enjoyable for everyone. When you prepare yourself and your kids the evening before and add some fun routines in the morning, everyone can rise and shine!
Lauren Pearl is mom to four grown and happily married kids who have families of their own now. A lifelong organizer, Lauren has been a professional organizer for more than fifteen years, and has helped hundreds of clients to get decluttered and organized in their homes, hearts and heads through her company, Pearl Concierge Services.