The Dress Rehearsal


So, school is starting soon. If you’re not one of those parents who have kept those routines going throughout the Summer (have you met one? I’m sure they exist), then you and your kids may have some adjusting to do in order to transition smoothly into the school year.

One difference that makes itself apparent is that suddenly, a lot more will be happening in the morning. Kids will need to be fed, bathed, dressed and ready to go—to the bus stop, to the car, on foot, preferably with shoes on—and all of these things need to happen on time.

Don’t freak out! Some of this will have to work itself out through experimentation, and there may be mornings in which someone’s shirt is inside out and the homework is in the lunchbox. And that’s okay. But there are ways to prepare the ground, as it were, to make the coming circus easier to mount.

One week is generally enough time to get back into school routines. This gives time to work out the kinks, to try the steps in a different order or at a longer or shorter duration, and most importantly it gives kids the opportunity to adjust to this new reality. They are going to be full of excitement and trepidation in more or less equal measure, and knowing how their sendoff will work goes a long way toward easing their minds and being able to focus on the good stuff.

What needs to happen? Here are the essentials.

  1. The night before: have a good idea of what breakfast will be, and what lunches will look like, if applicable. Lay the kids’ clothes out, or have outfits stored together for easy access.
  2. In the morning: You should be up first, because you’re the ringmaster. It is good for parents to establish their own morning rituals in order to be awake and ready to meet the kids’ needs. Making coffee is the key to my success (if not my very existence). My girls like to read books or draw first thing, so I might leave books, paper and pencils out for them to find.
  3. Kids can get used to getting up on time. Like I said, a week should be enough time for this to sink in. It might be good to allow a few days with little pressure before making it a “dress rehearsal.”
  4. Help kids practice dressing, toothbrushing, and gathering of backpacks, jackets and whatever else they might need. Give gentle reminders with little pressure, and make it fun, with incentives and rewards for mastering the task (my kids are fond of brushing to a timer; something like a sticker chart might work to encourage the practice).

These days of preparation are the place to learn what works and what needs tweaking. Remember to be gentle and patient now that the stakes are low and by the time “opening day” arrives, you will all feel more confident and comfortable with the new routine. And by removing barriers to the kids’ success, you are helping them to a place in which they are ready to learn.

Did I mention the coffee part?