Do you dread mornings and feel like you always have to walk on eggshells because you are stressed to the max before you ever leave home? Is getting everyone out the door on-time a constant struggle? Especially with school back in session, mornings can be a challenge– even for well-running families. Here are four easy solutions to make mornings less stressful and be smoother:

1. Take stock of your family situation and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. What are your expectations and do you have a morning routine?

a. Give everyone their own alarm clock with the expectation they will get up when it rings. If someone is not a morning person a clock that enables them to wake to their favorite music may make the difference between them getting up “on the wrong side of the bed” or getting up reasonably pleasant.

b. If the bathroom is a source of irritation, stagger the use of it. Those going to school earlier than others will be the first in and the first out. If need be, post a schedule on the door.

2. Breakfast doesn’t have to be a war zone.

a. Post a breakfast menu listing different choices, allowing them to choose one food from column 1, 2, and 3 to encourage nutritious breakfasts.

b. Review your shopping list to make sure you have breakfast foods on hand so you don’t run out of milk, cereal etc. If you do run out of something have a backup plan. For instance substitutes for fresh milk could be canned, powdered or boxed milk one morning.

c. Make ahead breakfast burritos, muffins, or pancakes and freeze them. They can be popped in the microwave to be re-heated quickly. Try using the Crockpot for hot cereal.

3. Simplify lunch preparations if your family packs lunches.

a. Teach children to pack their own lunches. Do this on weekends when you aren’t in a hurry.

b. Keep baskets full of treats in the pantry that they can easily chose from. Label the container. Designate an area in the fridge for lunch supplies to minimize hunting for the sandwich and other fixings.

c. Buy in bulk to save money and portion them out in plastic bags and keep these in containers.

4. Create a Landing/Launch Area for all things leaving the home in the morning.

a. Designate one place for backpacks, shoes and jackets. Teach your children to always put their backpacks and other items that “live” there away after using them during the evening.

b. Set up a hanging file or in-box for each child with their name on it. Teach them to always put their school papers in their assigned place every day. This will save a lot of time hunting for important papers that need to go back to school and will reduce paper clutter in your home. As the parent sort through each paper every night and those that need to go back to school put back in their backpacks. Other papers recycle or keep for their life books.

c. Use a cloth shoe rack on the back of the mud room door for keys and other things that leave the house every morning.

Children like limits and teaching them how to have a relatively stress-free morning will make them happy, and you happy too. You are teaching them important organizing skills they will use the rest of their lives. Praise them for their efforts and successes. Brainstorm with the entire family on what they want mornings to be like and respect everyone’s opinions. It will only take a couple of weeks to get everyone in a good, workable routine.