Single Parent Tips: Avoid the Morning School Rush

It’s all in the timing.”

Never has this statement been more true than trying to wrestle a toddler into shoes, a teen into consciousness and yourself into a pair of pantyhose in the morning before school. The morning school rush has new meaning for the single parent than when it did when there were two.

Start early…seriously early. The preparation the night before can eliminate most confusing minutes in the morning rush. Here the adage of the day is:

“Location. Location. Location.”

Shoes Lined Up

One left, one right

1. Put your shoes away. Locate both shoes and place them in a designated spot. You do not want to be looking for the other sneaker while the car is warming in the driveway.

2. Hang up your coat. When outer garments are necessary, have them in the same place everyday. Best practice is to have them hung the moment they are removed in the afternoons.

3. Have clothes for the next day chosen at bedtime. This eliminates looking for lucky socks on the morning of the big game.

4. Where is your homework? Before homework can be lost or eaten by the dog, put it in the backpack. Put the backpack with the shoes or coat. This will create a dual purpose stop in the morning. Be certain you have signed all the permission slips, progress reports and notes from the teacher. You don’t want to hear from the principal before lunch.

5. Plan lunch. Put all non-perishable items in the lunch bag. Fix the entree and put it in the refrigerator with the drink. In the morning, all you need do is pop the last tidbits in the bag. Remember, you need lunch, too. Save time and money by packing one for yourself while you are at it.

6. Clean the bathroom. No, don’t scrub the toilet before bed, unless you find it relaxing. Make sure toothpaste, hairbrushes, contact lens cases, medications, feminine hygiene items and toilet paper are all stocked in the correct location.

7. Take a survey. What are the children doing after school tomorrow?

Pink NFL Helmet

Practice until 1600

  • Soccer practice: Locate all gear and place with gym bag with the backpack.
  • Dance lessons: Find ballet shoes and pack the bag.
  • Band practice: Place instrument near the door or in the car.
  • Going to Grandma’s house: Call the mover or pack a bag.

8. What’s for breakfast? If your crew thrives on toaster pastries, you only need to see if they are in the pantry, and if the toaster is working. If you have junior gourmets, be sure the capers and scones are fresh and the eggs and butter are room temperature. The important thing to remember is: They need a nutritious breakfast everyday, including milk and juice.

9. Have an itinerary. Before you get to work, you have to put the children on the bus, take the baby to day care, drop off cookies to the PTA and make an appointment with the massage therapist. Make a mental map or a to do list so you are prepared with the most expeditious route to work without neglecting anything.

10. Set the clock. Teens are well past the age of being able to get up on their own. Ironically, the children under the age of ten are the ones who will do best at getting up to an alarm. Grant them some autonomy, increase their responsibility and let them get up by themselves. This will cut the demands of your morning time and build their self-esteem. They can come to you with a shirt on backwards, shoes on the wrong feet and announce, “I did it myself!”

11. Go to bed. No brainer, right? A good night’s sleep is the best morning motivator. Well-rested children are full of energy and cope with the morning rush better than teens who choose an all-niter before an exam. Now, you go to bed, too. Set a bedtime for yourself. Shy only a sick child, nothing should interfere with your bedtime.

“And the sun also rises…”

12. Early to rise. Get up a few minutes before your children. Give yourself some much needed “me time” by enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning quiet. Starting your day smoothly will help you deal with any school rush catastrophes.

13. Me, first. Get yourself dressed before you get the children out of the bed, dressed or motivated. You need this sense of accomplishment to concentrate. It is easier to remember to gather all of the children’s belongings when you are not thinking about which shoes you are going wear and whether or not your lipstick is in the purse or the bathroom.

14. Oldest next. Wake children according to age. The older children can help you with the smaller ones.

15. Checklist. For the first few weeks, you may need a checklist to remember all of the things you need to do. Post it by the door. As the children are donning coats and backpacks, you run down the checklist. Be sure to feed the fish.

16. Leave on time. This is the goal, right? If you know you need to leave at 7:13 to get everyone delivered on time, leave at 7:08 and pretend like 7:13 is the same as 9:42: Way too late. The extra cushion of five minutes is a stress reliever. If you live in a high traffic or severely rural area, make it an extra 10 minutes.

17. The odd clock. To help you stay on time track, place a travel-sized alarm clock near the last stop out the door. Set it to go off five minutes before time to leave. Now, you are not counting on your mental note of 7:08. When the alarm goes off, it announces to everyone, “It is now time to go.” You are no longer the morning bully rushing all the sleepy children.

The Bottom Line

Routine is the key to a successful morning school rush. By accomplishing the nightly ritual of preparing for the morning rush, you will net a few bonuses. Children thrive on routine. Your children settle into the routine of helping you get them ready for the next day. As a single parent, you need all the help you can get.

You sleep better knowing everything is ready for the morning. You, and more importantly your children, can sleep later since you spent the time the night before instead of in the morning. You are more relaxed because there will be significantly fewer pitfalls to getting out the door on time. Your independence is validated like the Little Red Hen: You are a single parent with the gold medal of success at the morning rush!

What do you do to take the “rush” out of getting ready for school?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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  1. I have only two words for you . . . super woman!

  2. James Parsons

     /  November 12, 2011

    Your abilities are amazing. How do you do so much all the time?

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