10 Tips To A Stress-Free Start To School

10 Tips To A Stress-Free Start To School

Those lazy mornings lolling around in pyjamas are over. If your children haven't seen 7am for the past six weeks, you're all in for a shock.

But getting to school on time doesn't have to be a manic battle against the clock with constant shrieking of "I said put your socks on".

The key to a calm countdown is establishing a routine that works for all of you, and then sticking to it for the next six weeks until half-term and a well-deserved break.

1. Lay out children's clean clothes the night before

Who wants to be rummaging through unsorted laundry for three pairs of - hopefully - matching socks at 8am?

That goes for you, too. It might seem ridiculously pedantic, but it makes life so much easier not to have a "does my bum look big in this" debate when you can't spare the time.

Steer clear of early-morning battles by pre-planning clothes and food. If your children kick up a fuss about wearing grey socks instead of white, long sleeves instead of short or finishing their porridge, it's really not worth making an issue of it. Just have the clothes you know they'll wear and the food they like ready and waiting.

2. Do all your school admin the night before

Assemble dinner money, signed school-trip letters, sick notes and so on - and put everything in each child's schoolbag by the front door.

Raiding piggy banks for £4.10 trip money in exact change minutes before you're due to leave is a fast track to a coronary.

Check schoolbags for stray school letters and pockets for yet more school demands for money, so you're not made to feel like the worst parent in the world just as the school bell is ringing.

3. Allow time for yourself

Whatever you need to face the world fully functioning, whether it's a hot shower, a cup of coffee or five minutes' peace, leave yourself enough time.

This does not include "just five more minutes" in bed, which will invariably turn into oversleeping followed by mayhem.

4. Know each child's diary

Whether it's music lessons, swimming practice or after-school activities, note down when your children need to be where.

If you want to be a smug super-mum, a laminated chart stuck on the front door or fridge with each child's name and activities for each day is deeply impressive.

Be warned: this looks less super when covered in scribbles because Alfie's recorder lesson has moved from Tuesdays to Thursdays. Place what each child needs by the front door the night before - PE kit, swimming bag, recorder.

5. Prepare for 'show and tell'

If your children have "show and tell" - my personal hell - don't leave it until morning for them to decide what to take, unless you want them to ransack their bedrooms or, worse, the contents of your handbag minutes before you're supposed to be on your way.

To date, my children have presented to their bewildered classmates an out-of-date library card, a snake-shaped pen and an old postcard.

6. Do homework the night before

Make sure your children's homework (see below) is completed the previous night and, crucially, put in their schoolbags.

No child - or parent - wants to be doing maths or Googling planets first thing in the morning, nor do you want to be doing the school run for a second time clutching their homework.

7. Stick to a routine

Make sure your children know what you expect from them every morning and stick to that routine, whether it's that they should be fully dressed before breakfast or that they should brush their teeth straight afterwards.

My personal top tip for the easiest way to a pain-free morning is no TV. That is, unless you want slow-motion children who can't answer a single question and spend 15 minutes putting their shoes on.

8. Prepare packed lunches

If your children have packed lunches, prepare as much as you can the night before. I have one smug friend who batch makes ham sandwiches (apparently this only works with good quality ham) and freezes them. By lunch time they have apparently thawed.

Do you really want to be staring at the inside of a fridge looking for something, anything, to make a sandwich filling?

Again - and this is slightly absurd but it works - pin up a chart of what fillings each child likes. In a perfect world they're all meant to have the same, but in the real world they don't.

9. Lay the breakfast table the night before

Make time to eat together, rather than allowing a smash-and-grab affair. According to the Office of National Statistics, one in five children skip breakfast, even though studies show that a morning meal is essential for good concentration levels.

Train your children to help before and after breakfast. There's no reason why you should be left with a bombsite of a kitchen, wiping cereal and jam smears off the table.

From the age of five, children can clear dishes into the dishwasher or sink. Their help also gives you more time for a cup of coffee.

10. Keep calm

It's nicer for everyone if you start the day jolly, rather than bad-tempered. Factor in a few minutes for the unexpected.

You don't want to be seething because you're stuck behind the rubbish lorry, the bus is late or you've forgotten where you parked the car (my favourite trick).

Better still, walk. You get time to talk to the children and they'll be more likely to sit still at school.

If you are late, don't blame the children. Everyone has the occasional bad morning, but if your children are repeatedly late for school, it's up to you to start a more organised morning routine.

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