Morning Chaos or How to get to School on Time




It’s back to school season!

I am always sad to see the end of the holidays, but I also like that time of year because it is an opportunity to make new resolutions and to set new routines in place.


Morning routines tend to be chaotic for most families and unfortunately, we often find ourselves nagging, complaining, yelling and threatening more than we wish to. This is hardly surprising given the number of tasks needing to be accomplished in that very short amount of time between getting out of bed and leaving for school… Multiply this list by the number of children, and we are all exhausted before the day has even begun!!
Nothing was more sad to me than to realise, once everyone was gone, that I had spoiled the little time we had together before school by nagging and rushing the little people I love the most…

Sometimes it is merely a matter of being better organised.

Here are some simple practical tips that can help remove some of that morning stress.
Feel free to add your own at the end of the article.



Create a big Family Calendar with a column or a colour code for each child. Make it very child friendly, using photographs if necessary, so that even the younger ones can identify their programme of regular after school activities.

– Making sure that every piece of clothing, lunch boxes and other personal items are labelled will avoid arguments between siblings (remove the previous child’s name if it is a hand-me-down to avoid major confusion!)

– To encourage tidiness and independence, make the hallway practical and free of other clutter by setting up accessible pegs for coats, low shelves with a box for each child where they can store their own lunch box or toys (particularly handy in Winter for hats, scarves and gloves) or big baskets for shoes and sports bags.

Create a morning Routine Chart: brainstorm with each child all the tasks that need doing in the morning and decide of the best order in which they should be done (make sure the ‘fun’ activity – playing or reading – comes after all the other tasks are done!).

Let young children illustrate each activity or take a photograph of them doing it.

Stick the illustrations on a large sheet of paper and display this routine chart in an visible place. Instead of nagging and calling out what needs to be done, send the child to their routine chart to check what they need to do next.



– Have a weekly planning Family Meeting at a convenient time (Sunday evenings work well when everyone is rested and fed and before a fun family activity :-). This is a time where each child empties her backpack, brings out her diary and any forms that need signing, receives allowance or activity money.

Pencil in the weekly Family Calendar all the extra activities for that week (birthday parties, school trips) and discuss logistics with each child. Children are reassured and calmer if they know the programme in advance.



– Prepare lunch boxes with all the dry items, leaving the fresh food in the fridge, ready to be added to the box in the morning. Children can be motivated to help if we offer them choices and discuss what a healthy meal combination is.

– Prepare backpacks, snacks, water bottles and sports bags/instruments and place them in the hallway. Assign a space to each child if they are prone to pushing and shoving. This also helps children who tend to forget things as they will know they have to bring to school everything that is in their space for that day.

– Set the breakfast table and lay the dry ingredients along with plates, bowls and cutlery on the table (this can also be made the responsibility of one of your children).

– For the slow dressers: decide on the clothes they will wear the next day and lay them ou OR
– Prepare 5 outfits and photograph your child in each of them. Post these photos next to the closet as a ‘mini catalogue’ of outfits they can recreate easily. Show them where the clothes are and make those easily accessible.



– By making yourself get up 10 minutes before the children you will be a step ahead and that much calmer. Granted, it is very hard when we are tired or after a short night, but well worth it.

Sleep is so important. Try to go to bed early (at least 10 minutes earlier than the night before until you find a schedule that suits you!)

– Wake up each child, spend a little time connecting, hugging, reminding them of what to look forward to during this day.

– Stop yourself from yelling across the house. As tempting as it might be when we are running out of time, it is an unhelpful way to multi-task as it mostly aggravates the level of stress (who likes to be yelled at in the morning anyway right?). If you need to talk to your child, make the extra effort to go to them.

– When a child is resisting and falling behind schedule, go to him, make eye contact, remind him why we have breakfast at the agreed time and how unpleasant it is to arrive at school late. It is not the time to lecture but if the current routine isn’t working, suggest a time where you can have a conversation about how to improve it and find solutions that suit everyone.

– Have a large clock visible to all!

– Playing music has been known to dissipate stress and create a happy mood.



– When all has gone nearly as planned and it looks like everyone will arrive at their destination on time, use positive reinforcement and comment on ‘What a pleasant morning it was, thank you everyone for cooperating and following your routines!’
– And if you are the designated driver for your school run, let the children be in charge of choosing the music! It will empower them, knowing that they have had a little control over their life.


Most of all, be empathetic, encouraging, respectful and patient. By keeping control of our state of mind and staying calm we set the tone and help our children learn how to become independent and cooperative.

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