Six “No’s” to Help Your Teen’s School Morning Routine

So, how’s the start of the school year going for you?

We’re nearing the end of week 2. Every morning we send a freshman and a sophomore off to a high school with two buildings, over 2,300 students, and a top-20 ranking in our state.

Yeah, it’s like that.

We’ve had many school morning strategies over the years–some more successful than others. I put a lot of thought into what we’d do differently this year, given the high level of teenage anxiety, attitude, and ADHD we live with. Our system isn’t perfect, but so far it  seems to be working. Here are the “No’s” we operate by to keep our mornings running calmly and get all of us out the door on time.

Six”No’s” for Your Teen’s School Morning Routine

  1. No Waiting: Start with the basics here–your bathroom schedule. My daughters and I share a bathroom (I know, the horrors!) so if I want any privacy in the morning as I get ready for work, I need to get in and out of the bathroom before they begin moving. This requires that I adjust my sleep routine so that I can get up earlier to get ready without interruption. Hello 5:30 am.  It isn’t always easy, but if I’m less stressed about getting myself ready in the morning, that’s a benefit for the whole family.
  2. No Electronics until you are dressed, packed, and ready to head out the door. This goes for parents as well as teens.
  3. No Morning News. It’s stressful for us and for our teens, who are now old enough to understand the implications of what’s happening in our country and around the world. Instead play soft music or calming music to help relax everyone’s stress level.
  4. No Surprises. Get everything ready the night before–backpacks, lunches, outfits, whatever needs a signature. If you have an anxious teen, talk with them the night before about what the morning will look like and what might be on the schedule for tomorrow after school.  Discuss when they’ll be expected to be ready, what the lunch plans are for the next day (pack or buy), when their ride (bus or family car) will be leaving. If you’ve already discussed what the consequences are if they’re not ready on time, there’s no need to remind them over and over. They know.
  5. No Excuses. Getting ready and to school on time is an executive function skill that all teens need to master. Give them the tools they need to succeed: a reasonable bed time, no electronics in the bedroom at night, an alarm clock, and adequate time to get ready. Both of our teens prefer to have over an hour to get ready in the morning. It takes them only 10 minutes to dress and wash up, but they want the extra time to manage their stress in a way that works for them- reading, word puzzles, dog snuggling, etc. If they need it, they get it. It helps them so it helps us all.
  6. No Judging. What they choose to wear, how they choose to look is their decision (unless it conflicts with family or school expectations). Tell them that every outfit and hairstyle looks great (avoid the word “cute”). That purple lipstick? Awesome.  Remind them that they are lovely “inside and out”. Do your best to acknowledge every question they ask and idea they share as “good” and heap loads of praise on anything they might do or say that leans even in the slightest bit towards “adulting.”  I’ve learned to save my questions for later, make my answers brief, maintain a neutral facial expression (as best as I can), and by all means, keep my opinions to myself.  They’ll be judged enough when they walk through those school doors, they need their home to be a judge-free zone.

This is what’s working for us right now. What morning strategies are you finding that work for you?