Avoid morning madness

Sep 11, 2009 at 8:24 p.m. ET

It's a brand-new school year, and that means a fresh start. This could be the year that you finally face morning madness head on and refuse to let it take over your life for yet another year. Here, we offer a few ideas to help make your mornings a little less stressful.

Boy leaving for school

Lay the ground rules

Give your children age-appropriate tasks for the morning. Make a checklist for each child that includes tasks such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, wiping down the kitchen table and/or preparing lunch. If your child accomplishes each task, reward him/her with a special playtime.

Hitchin' a ride

Organize a neighborhood carpool. This is good for the environment as well as your sanity. By trading off driving, you'll ensure that at least two days a week you won't have to worry about getting the kids off to school. Make sure you select a reliable partner to share your driving duties. You don't need the added stress of worrying whether she's going to get the kids to school on time.

Extra time

Give yourself more time than you think you need to get everyone up, ready and out the door. Wake up 15 minutes to a half an hour before you really think you need to get your morning started. If you are ready early, great! Allow yourself a few minutes to peruse the morning paper.

Keep track

Keep a family calendar in a common area, such as the kitchen, where everyone can access it and write down their commitments. This will help everyone keep track of the day's activities so there are no last-minute surprises ("Mom, you were supposed to make 30 cupcakes for my class today!").

Create a pattern

As much as we hate to admit it, most of us thrive on a schedule. Once you establish your routine (and practice it in real time!), you'll find it gets easier and less stressful day by day.

Prior preparation

Instruct your children to pack their school bags the night before so they are not scrambling around in the morning trying to track down their homework (or the class hamster they were watching for the night).

Check in

The night before, ask your children if they have any special requirements for the following day. For example, do they need you to sign any forms? If so, get that taken care of right then and there, and pack the forms in the schoolbag so you don't even have to think about it in the morning.

Encourage, encourage, encourage

Kids love praise, so be sure to reward them with a compliment when the morning is going smoothly. Tell them how much it means to you that you can count on her. This will build confidence and further your child's ability to make the morning hustle and bustle easier.