The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 23, 2012

New routine requires planning once back-to-school glow is gone

By Sarah Coyne
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — If the first week of school is like a triple-scoop ice cream cone with sprinkles and a cherry on top, the second week of school is its meltdown: All the sprinkles have disappeared, the cherry is lying on the floor in a puddle of melted vanilla, and the cone is a soggy mess.

The excitement has begun to wear off.

The alarm clock is all good fun until week two, at which point it’s overstayed its welcome. Not to mention the beginning of homework -- diverting for parents and kids!

For many of us, the fading novelty of kids going back to school can present some challenges. In our family, the problems begin in the early morning hours with indecisiveness and dawdling.

We’ve stumbled on the same issues over and over when it comes to getting ready for school. This year, we’ve put some plans in motion to help the mornings flow more smoothly.

Be the adult: As parents, we set the tone by being ready for the day. If we’re trying to get ourselves dressed and packed at the same time we’re shouting instructions to our children, frustration is bound to bloom -- especially with preschoolers. It’s important to have our own ducks in a row before our kids can benefit from our attention.

This means waking up earlier than they do. This also means we might curse the sunrise, the school system and the alarm clock. But we’ll ultimately be happier with the end result of calm, on-time mornings.

Add pep: Download a playlist of upbeat songs that will help you and your kids navigate tired mornings with a bit more bounce in your steps. Search for family favorites as well as clichŽ classics about sunshine and mornings.

If you’re super organized, you could also time your activities by song length, and end up knowing you have to be done with teeth brushing before The Beatles have finished singing, “Here comes the sun.” Or you might simply announce: “Two more songs before we’re leaving.”

Stick to a plan: It’s OK to lay out every boring detail of the week to come, leaving less time for indecisiveness at critical moments. Go over a breakfast menu with the kids on Sunday night: Do they want yogurt and fruit on Monday, and peanut butter toast on Tuesday? Write it down.

Look at the weather: Will the kids need shorts until mid-week and long sleeves by Friday? Hang the outfits in the closet, ready.

What about lunch? If they’ll have a school lunch twice in the coming week, place money in marked envelopes by the front door. Sack lunches? You guessed it: Make a menu, and stick to it for quick morning prep.

Good nights: There’s the obvious fact that a full night of sleep will help everyone function better, but nights are for more than just sleeping. Before bed, before dinner, before obligations, taking time to really be with our kids in the evenings can fill them up with the love and attention they need to have good tomorrows.

Imagine your attention as fuel, just like food and rest, to provide your kids with energy and confidence. Read together. Play in the backyard. Make ice cream sundaes. Talk.

The more time parents can spend with children outside the rush of schedules, the easier it will be to encourage smooth mornings.



Sarah Coyne lives in Joplin. She writes about life and motherhood at her personal blog, http://thisheavenlylife. blogspot.com.