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Tips for parents struggling to send their kids off to school in the morning

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Rise and shine if you can. Kids are back in school. And as all you parents out there know, the morning struggle is real.

It is 7:14, and I am now waking my kids up. I'm running behind, running behind. We have to be out of here by 7:50. I know you're supposed to wake them up earlier than that. Hey, Annalise. Hey, come on. Come on, kids, get up. Get up. Get up. Get up. Get up.

Now, all of my kids are at school for the first time this year. There's three kids that have to get out the door every morning. And I'm wondering, like, is there a better way to do this? So who to call? Jamilah Lemieux. She's a contributor to Slate's parenting column "Care And Feeding," as well as co-host of the podcast "Mom And Dad Are Fighting." Jamilah, I am so glad to talk to you. Welcome to the program.

JAMILAH LEMIEUX: Thank you for having me.

RASCOE: It took 38 minutes from getting the kids up to when they left the house, probably a little bit more - 48, something like that, which is pretty fast.

LEMIEUX: That is impressive.

RASCOE: But it's unusual. And it's the first week. It gets worse as the year goes on. But those 38 minutes, even that time is stressful. What tips do you have for creating a smooth morning routine?

LEMIEUX: Well, routine is the key word.

RASCOE: OK.

LEMIEUX: You want to try to make your mornings look the same as possible every day. And of course, especially with three children, my goodness, something will happen.

RASCOE: Yes (laughter).

LEMIEUX: You know, inevitably, you'll be thrown off at some point. But you still want your mornings to feel familiar. You want the kids to have a rhythm. So if they get up at 6:30 every day, they get up at 6:30 every day.

RASCOE: I have found that from over - it's been years of getting into this rhythm, which was really hard at first - what happens the night before probably sets the tone for the day of.

LEMIEUX: Yes. As much as you can do the night before, the better. You can really treat yourself and make lunch the night before if you're up to it. That'll save yourself some time in the morning. But if you can lay out this out - make sure bookbag is packed and notes are signed, homework is checked. Don't save any of that stuff to do in the morning unless you absolutely have to.

RASCOE: A lot of tips - there are, like, things that parents can do to make the morning easier, like you said. But how do you make the kid independent?

LEMIEUX: You know, it depends on your child. I've known people that have been able to, you know, entrust a 5-year-old to brush their teeth with minimal supervision. My daughter - I still - she's 10 and I'm still supervising the getting ready process. She picks out her outfit, and she washes up in the morning or takes a shower and brushes her teeth. But, like, I'm still monitoring that. One thing that can be helpful is timers.

RASCOE: OK.

LEMIEUX: Give your kid five minutes to brush their teeth. Set a timer. When the timer goes off, move them to the next activity. So that way you may be able to leave them in the room by themselves, but you're still keeping on top of them and making sure that they're moving on schedule.

RASCOE: Do you have a message for parents who are struggling with this and, you know, maybe not always succeeding?

LEMIEUX: Being gracious with yourself because, honestly, mornings just suck as a parent. It's the worst part of the job. I too have gone through seasons where we're late all the time. We just can't get it together. But is the child fed, clean, dressed? Did they make it? Yes? OK, well, we won.

RASCOE: (Laughter). That's Jamilah Lemieux, a writer for Slate's parenting column "Care And Feeding" and co-host of the podcast "Mom And Dad Are Fighting." Thank you so much for joining us.

LEMIEUX: Thank you for having me.

RASCOE: OK. You got your lunchbox? OK. Here you go. All right. Have a great day. I love you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ayesha Rascoe
Ayesha Rascoe is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and the Saturday episodes of Up First. As host of the morning news magazine, she interviews news makers, entertainers, politicians and more about the stories that everyone is talking about or that everyone should be talking about.