Why The Morning School Run Doesn’t Need To Be Hell

The school run doesn’t have to be a manic race against the clock with frustrated cries of “I said put your shoes on!”. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can deliver children to the playground in time for the morning bell and still all be smiling and happy. Really.

The school run gets a bad press with much talk of soaring stress levels and ‘how to survive’ it, but you only have to look at parents dropping their kids off at school to see that in reality it’s a daily routine that most of us cherish, whether it’s a familiar walk to school or sitting in the car in that bubble of suspended time when you can chat, laugh and even sing together.

“I still get nostalgic about all the times we’d play first one to see... on the same car journey every day,” says Jane Love, now a mum of three teenagers.

“We’d sing along to the radio, talk about news events, we even had a spate of reciting ridiculously jolly times tables along to a CD. I loved the school run.”

Laura Findley agrees - and she’s still deep in school run territory with twin five-year-olds and a seven-year-old.

“I love the way the school day is bookended by the school run and the chance to hear their news when they’re still excited, before every question gets the response ‘fine’ and ‘don’t ‘member’. Doing the school run for the last four years also means I’ve made lots of really good friends - I’ve never experienced ‘playground politics’ - and once a week we’ll head for a coffee after the school run.”

So how do you manage a calm countdown?

Liat Hughes Joshi, parenting author of Raising Children: The Primary Years (Everything parents need to know - from homework and horrid habits to screen time and sleepovers) has these tips for a smooth school run.

“Don¹t allow TV/ screen use before school as you’re creating a potential argument when kids have to turn it off - plus they’ll be so focussed on the screen they won’t hear you chivvying them to get ready,” she says.

“No matter how much you love those extra 10 minutes in bed, if they mean you’re constantly battling against the clock to make it to the school gates on time, and feeling stressed, it’s worth forgoing them.

“Definitely get as much ready and done the night before as possible, be it packed lunches or sports kit and get your kids to take responsibility for this stuff as soon as they’re old enough.

“Use Post-It notes liberally as reminders to minimise the chance of forgetting that art homework project/sports shoes/text book and stick them on the inside of the front door.

“Another good way to ensure you’re less likely to forget that crucial thing is to put the car keys on it/in it and leave it somewhere you can’t not see it. This way you cannot physically drive off without it. (Just don’t forget that was your master plan and then waste vital time trying to find the car keys!).”

Some other school run hacks include:

  • Keep some wet wipes in the car/in your bag for last-minute face cleans and even shoe scrubs.
  • If your children have sandwiches, you can bulk make and freeze them. They’ll be unthawed and fresh by lunchtime.
  • Start a routine of having breakfast and brushing teeth before dressing to minimise food and toothpaste stains on school uniform.
  • Buy all the same colour socks for your children, so you can always find a pair.  
  • Raid all the pockets of your children’s school bags the night before to discover letters that need signing and school trip money requests, rather than having to raid piggy banks for exact change in the morning.
  • Know each child’s weekly diary. Double check they have placed what they need for each day, whether it’s PE kit, recorder, swimming bag or goggles, by the front door in the evening.

It is important to teach children to tell the time so they know exactly how long they have left, and for younger children give them regular countdown reminders.

“I have an alarm clock in the kitchen and when it goes off, the children know it’s time to put coats on and head for the door without me having to sound like a stuck record,” says mum-of-two Marisa Kent.

Even with meticulous timing, the school run can go pear-shaped – and they will, thanks to being stuck behind that bin lorry or those new roadworks. When that happens take a few minutes to calm down and give your child a proper goodbye or big hug before you leave them at school.

The last word goes to Jenny Cross, whose youngest child has just started secondary school: “It’s a real shock not having the school run. At 7.45 I’m still in my dressing gown, which sounds wonderfully indulgent, but I find myself drifting around pointlessly wiping surfaces. I miss that daily debrief from the kids on the way home and chance to catch up with my own school friends.”

See, the school run can be heaven too. 


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