7 Tips for Better Mornings on School Days

A mom kneels down to help her son with his backpack before school in the morning.Starting a new school routine can be really difficult for everyone. It’s disorienting and dysregulating, much like starting a new job. The earlier you can get your morning school routine started, the easier those first few weeks can be.

Dysregulating is anything that makes it difficult for someone to manage his or her own emotions. Parents can help regulate their kids by helping themselves stay regulated and calm. The easier we can make it on ourselves in the morning, the easier it is to have patience with — and help our kids with — their emotions.

If dysregulated is being unable to control your own emotions, than regulating things help us to control our emotions and respond to things. Doing this in the morning is tough!

Personally, I don’t consider myself a morning or patient person. We’re usually rushing out the door, which means I constantly forget things. I’ve found that building a flexible routine has helped a lot. Here are my seven tips for making your morning routine better — and smoother — on school days.

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1. Sunlight over Screens 

Looking at phones or screens first thing in the morning gives our brain a big dopamine hit. And a majority of brains do better with slower dopamine mornings. I did not realize that until about a month ago. Wow! What a difference it makes to look or step outside before I check my phone.

When my kiddo get up before the sun, I’m still probably going to throw on a show or get out the Kindle. Flexibility is important, and so is my sleep, especially when they aren’t sleeping as well. It doesn’t happen every day, but we feel a difference when we step outside for a second or open up the blinds before we pick up the screens.

2. Hydration Helps Mornings Flow 

Drinking water in the morning is important for all sorts of health reasons. It also helps to calm your body. You haven’t had anything to drink while you’re sleeping, and your body is thirsty.

A woman drinks a glass of waterMy kids won’t do this on their own unless I put their water bottles right in front of them. We’re working on that. They sleep with a fresh water bottle at night, so I just add ice to refresh them in the morning.

3. Do Your Morning Self as Many Favors as Possible

Preparing as much as possible the night before is the most important part of our morning routine. I started putting aside all of our clothes for the week in a shoe organizer. It has reduced my weekday stress level. The night before, I prepare:

  • Backpacks/folders/extracurricular bags
  • Breakfast options laid out on the table
  • Lunches
  • Medications
  • Outfits
  • Shoes
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4. Share a Smile and Mantra

Something that really stuck with me from my education courses in college was that smiling when you first see a child in the morning can set the tone for hours. I’m generally a grumpy morning person, but I try to shake it off for a minute to connect with my kiddos when they first see me. Create a couple of mantras, or inspiring phrases, that you say together to start mornings on the right foot.

Have you heard of the Snoop Dog Affirmation song?! It’s so fun! While you’re listening to positive music, check out books and songs by Slumberkins, a company made by moms that focuses on emotions and early childhood development. Their songs are great, but they also have a more adult sounding album coming out with songs based on their mantras. The first song is “Take a Deep Breath,” by Trevor Hall. And if you’re looking for older kids or yourself, check out “Helium” by Mikey Wax.

5. Help Regulate Kids with Protein

I did NOT realize how vital protein was. It’s important for us, but it’s vital for our kids. Yes, it can be hard when you’ve got kids who are picky eaters. Still, I try to make sure the kids and I both have protein to start the day. It helps them to regulate their bodies.

My favorite local mom nutritionist has a great course on helping your picky eater. You can find her at MamaKnowsNutrition. Her tips have helped our family!

Our favorite protein go-tos are string cheese, spoonfuls of peanut butter, dry shredded wheat cereal, oatmeal, greek yogurt, and lunch meat.

6. Keep Calm and Mom On

This is one of the more difficult goals for me. My patience is shorter in the morning and my anxiety higher than it is in the evening. The less I focus on the morning being perfect, and the more I do things that keep me calm, the better I feel. I know I need to keep and model the calm. I set the tone in the morning.

If I’m rushed and anxious, I can’t expect the kids to be calm and compliant. My job is to share that calm with them even if they are dysregulated, wild, or tired. I can take deep breathes. I can feed myself. I can be kind and patient. If I want to help regulate kids, I have to regulate myself.

7. Two Minutes to Stress Reduction

Taking deep breathes, smiling, and saying positive phrases are all ways to connect our bodies to calmness. We can do something else, quickly, that can help us regulate.

Proprioception is the sense that helps our body to focus, know where we are, and plays a large role in our coordination. Doing some intentional sensory input, for even a couple of minutes, can help kids regulate. Ten quick heavy sensory input activities you could do in the morning.

  • Big hugs
  • Crawl or crab walk to your backpack
  • Do 5 push up’s off of the wall standing up
  • Hopping
  • Jumping jacks
  • Playing with fidgets
  • Quick dance party
  • Sitting on/ bounding on a yoga ball
  • Squeezing stress balls
  • Swinging

These are ideals. If we hit a few of these in the morning and leave our kids on a positive note instead of a negative one, that’s a win.

What are your favorite morning routine moments or tips?

Sarah Spencer
Sarah was raised in Plano, took a detour in Oklahoma for college, and now lives in McKinney. She's a teacher and mom who believes that 10 three year olds are easier to handle than one. Sarah and her husband, Nathaniel, are foster and adoptive parents and advocates. Big fans of deep conversations, they run a blog that helps parents connect with their kids over entertainment. She likes to try DIY projects that are way over her head and experiment with different teas and chocolates while binge-watching great series. Follow Sarah at Down the Hobbit Hole Blog and follow on Facebook or Instagram for her movie and book guides for parents.