Sleep is critical for anyone to function well, so start a consistent bedtime routine several weeks before the first day of school. The amount of sleep your child receives will determine his ability to think, reason and learn.

Sleep is critical for anyone to function well, so start a consistent bedtime routine several weeks before the first day of school. The amount of sleep your child receives will determine his ability to think, reason and learn. Social skills and academic learning are directly impacted by the amount of sleep your child receives. Tired, cranky children do not function well.  

Get your child on board with a nighttime routine that you develop together. Take photos of your child completing his exact routine (bath, PJs, brush teeth, etc.), or list them, helping your child draw pictures for visual cues. Action photos of himself or his own drawings will help him become invested in his routine.

If summer nights have been filled with late-night adventures, begin going to bed 10 minutes earlier, every other night, until you reach an appropriate bedtime.

Enjoy your mornings

Prepare the night before. Minimize chaos and increase your child’s independence and self-esteem by teaching him how to get ready for the next day. Preparation always minimizes stress. A child who is stressed is less able to focus on his work. Here is a list of things that can be taken care of the night before:

1. Help your child prepare his lunch the night before. Empower him by letting him choose healthy items and place napkins, drinks and fruits in his own lunchbag.

2. Also help your child to choose items for his breakfast the night before. Let your child arrange cereal, bowl, spoon, glass and vitamins at night. Fill a small pitcher with milk and place on a lower shelf of the refrigerator so he can pour easily.

3. Choose school clothes the night before. Check the weather forecast together for stormy or sunny reports. Empower your child by allowing some choices of clothes. Have him try those choices on to be sure he’s comfortable. Help him lay everything out, ready to go.  

4. Check his backpack together for homework and notes from the teacher. Fill out forms and complete all work the night before. Teach him to put everything carefully in his backpack, and place it by the door.

5. School success means getting all work done in the afternoon or evening before earning privileges such as TV or games. Putting off assignments can cause subtle anxiety and make starting homework even more difficult.

The morning routine

In the morning:

1. Prepare a Morning Schedule Board or Photo Flip Book, with simple pictures of his routine. Ask him what he needs to do before school, so he comes up with the routine and is more involved. Should he dress or eat breakfast first? Should he brush teeth before or after breakfast?

2. If TV is permitted before school, make it a privilege, something he can earn after he is dressed and completely ready.

3. Play the game “Beat the Clock” by setting a timer for 10 minutes for each task. Be certain to recognize each task accomplished. “Wow!  I can’t believe how your teeth sparkle!” or “You did a great job pulling on that shirt.” Everything you recognize with kind words or a touch will continue each day.

4. Keep mornings calm and quiet. Minimize yelling throughout the house. Take the time to “Get up and Go” to see if your child needs help or encouragement. If he’s frustrated, provide empathy. “That shirt can be so tough to get on. It looks like you’re figuring it out. Want some help?”

A child who is rested, has a routine and is prepared will be more successful than a tired child who has had an emotionally chaotic morning. Your attitude sets the tone. Effort, careful planning, lots of patience and consistency can make the difference between simply surviving each morning or starting a successful day at school.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio, and a contributor to The Repository. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton OH 44702.