Back to school means getting kids adjusted to a new schedule. Anything that messes with a routine can be hard, not to mention super stressful. How can we wake up kids for school in a way that makes our mornings easier and less grumpy? Here’s your back to school plan.
It was 6:30 AM on the first day back to school and I couldn’t get my daughter out of bed. Heck, I could hardly get myself out of bed.
Have you been there?
All summer, we let our daughter stay up until 9PM. She read, played on her tablet and then fell asleep… as late as she wanted. Then, she slept in until 7:30AM, lay in bed and then pulled on some play clothes to lazily start her day. It’s what summers are for, right?
But when school started, our mornings became one chaotic mess. It’s so hard to wake up kids for school! I constantly nagged her to get out of bed, reminded her to stop playing or questioned if she was ready to walk out the door.
Getting our children to go to bed early to wake up for school is tough. After staying up late all summer, they tell us that they aren’t tired. But then the mornings arrive and they’re either comatose or moody to enough the rival The Incredible Hulk.
We want them to have enough time in the morning to accomplish everything they need to: Getting dressed, brushing their teeth, eating breakfast, making their own lunch, looking neat and presentable for the day.
If they fall short on any of those things, we think other adults will judge us at parents. I know I felt that way. I imagined my daughter’s teacher looking at her unkempt hair and thinking to herself, “Wow, poor girl, her parents really aren’t on it.”
How do we solve this?
I discovered that two specific things prevented my daughter from having enough time in the morning:
- Not getting enough sleep the night before
- No real incentive to wake up earlier.
By making small changes to my daughter’s sleep routine before school started and by letting her have special privileges the first week of school, waking up for school became less of a hassle and more of a manageable morning.
Start Adjusting Your Child’s Sleep Schedule
It’s 8:30PM and we are only half way through American Ninja Warrior. Jesse Graff – the amazing ninja stuntwoman – is still scheduled to run. What’s the harm in letting my daughter stay up to watch?
Actually, a lot. I announce, “We’ll finish this tomorrow. Time for bed.”
“But, just a few more minutes! I’m not tired!”
“No worries,” I reply, “We can finish this tomorrow.”
I wish I could say that she agrees and delightfully skips off to bed. But, no. She usually gets mad at me and stomps off down the hall.
This parenting gig is far from easy.
A week before school starts, we begin to adjust bedtime back from 9PM. For the first few nights, it’s 8:45PM. Then, we bring it back to 8:30PM, all while explaining that we are making sure she gets enough sleep for school.
Limit Device Use
As adults, we know its hard to fall asleep when you’re not tired – and it’s definitely the same for kids.
When we start making their bedtime earlier, our rule is only to be in bed by a certain time. If my daughter’s not tired, she can always read a book, but no electronics.
Why? According to Scientific American, the screens in our devices have a higher concentration of blue light than any other light. Blue light is known to affect your levels of melatonin -the hormone that causes you to fall asleep – more than any other light source.
If kids (and adults) use devices right before bed, it can negatively impact sleep. Even though my daughter has access to a whole public library of e-books on her tablet, we insist that she choose reading material of the paper variety when she’s laying in bed.
Start a New Morning Routine
The term “getting ready” can be such an abstract term. What does it mean to “be ready” for school? We know what we want from our kids, but do they know?
That’s why we need to plan new morning routines with our children. It helps to sit down before school starts and plan out exactly what your child needs to do every morning. Some items on her list can be:
- make her bed
- eat breakfast
- take a shower
- get dressed
- pack lunch
- pack her school bag
- put on shoes
Map these out with your child and write them in the order that she should do them each morning. Post this list in her room as a reminder that she can see when she goes to bed each night as well as see first thing every morning.
By knowing exactly what needs to get done before she leaves for school, her brain can better plan out the amount of time it will take to get ready.
Get a Few New School Items to Wake Up Kids for School
Do you remember the joy of using a new backpack the first day of school? I remember jumping out of bed because everything I had for school was new and exciting. New school supplies, new undershirts, new clothes…
Our kids feel the exact same way. This school year, my daughter got a new backpack and a few new headbands.
But here’s the parenting ninja part, we don’t allow her to use any of her new items until the first day of school. This creates anticipation and excitement to jump out of bed the first week of school.
Novelty is your friend when trying to get your child back on a decent wake-up schedule.
Let me help you out, too! Hanes is giving a back-to-school comfort pack to one lucky Whimsicle reader. The winner will receive a $50 Visa gift card and 3 Back-To-School Styles from Hanes. You can enter below.
One word: Breakfast
You can use the same novelty mind trick by letting your child pick out a new breakfast food that she can’t eat until the first week of school. Some ideas:
- a new breakfast cereal
- frozen breakfast sausage
- a different flavor frozen waffle
- Instant oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins
Notice all these are super easy that kids can fix themselves. We don’t need to overcomplicate the mornings by adding one more thing for us to do as parents.
Let Natural Consequences Take Over
At some point during the first week of school, or maybe the second, your child may start sleeping in again. That is completely normal. In fact, I hope for it.
We can only do so much for our kids. While we can help them plan and show them the way to be successful, it’s ultimately up to them. After we’ve set the groundwork, we need to step back.
If your son sleeps in and misses his breakfast, he will feel hungry until lunch. If your daughter doesn’t get out of bed and then lacks the time to brush her hair, she will have a tangled mane the entire school day. Maybe, one of her friends will ask her about it, and she’ll probably feel hurt.
Mistakes are the way we grow. According to Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the martial art Aikido, “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (which I totally recommend, just get it on your e-reader), “A successful person is just someone who has made more mistakes than you.”
We need to let our kids make these mistakes and feel the consequences. That is the only way we stop nagging. By letting them experience the consequences, our kids will be more self-motivated to get out the door in time.
By providing a groundwork of adjusting their bedtime, making kids aware of expectations and giving morning incentives the first week, we are doing our job as parents to make the transition back to school as easy as possible. Now, it’s up to our kids to take it from here with gentle reminders from us.