After months of sleeping in, staying up late, and enjoying a lot less structure, it’s a big adjustment for kids and teens to head back to school. You can set them up for an easier transition with these tips for a great morning – right down to packing a backpack the night before.

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1. Set your child’s alarm for the same time every day (even on weekends).

Their body will start to signal them to wake up at the same time every day, too – which means they’ll feel more rested.

2. Make bedtime the same every day too.

This ensures your child gets enough sleep every night. Is your child having trouble going to sleep? Our behavioral sleep psychologist has solutions.

3. For kids with special needs and younger kids, make a morning routine chart.

Use pictures to help your child see what needs to happen next. For example: Brush teeth, comb hair, wash face, get dressed, eat breakfast, put shoes on, grab backpack, and head out the door.

Young boy packs his backpack

4. Assign a spot for your child to keep their backpack, jacket and other school items.

The same tactic you use for keeping the house tidy? It also eliminates last-minute searches in the morning. Give your child their own bin, hook, shelf or corner to collect the items they’ll need for school: backpack, lunchbox, water bottle, shoes, jacket, etc. Have them check their spot every night before school to make sure everything’s there. (For kids who benefit from visual aids, hang a sign with pictures of each item.)

5. Have your child pack their school bag the night (or afternoon) before.

Build this into your child’s routine in the time that works best – for example, as a ritual to signal the end of homework time. Once they’ve gathered up books, papers, technology, show-and-tell items, and anything else they’ll need the next day, they can set their backpack in its designated spot, ready to go. Here 10 items to add to their back-to-school supply list during COVID-19.

6. Prepare lunch and snacks the night before.

Follow any special guidelines from your child’s school when it comes to COVID-19 precautions and other students’ allergy sensitivities. Need ideas for healthy and fun snacks that your child can help you prepare? Here are a few to get you started.

Mother helping her daughter pick out clothes

7. Lay out outfits the night before.

To help kids mentally gear up for school, let them in on the decision-making process. The next morning, when they put on clothes that they helped select, they’ll already feel in control of their day.

8. Set aside time after school – but well before bedtime – to ask what’s on your child’s mind.

Check in on how your child’s day went today, and what’s on their mind for tomorrow. Ask what they’re excited about, or if they’re worried about anything. Not only does this practice help your child work through their feelings – it may help the next morning go more smoothly. Tip: Try to have these talks well before bedtime and in a room other than your child’s bedroom, so any anxious thoughts won’t be associated with the place your child relaxes and sleeps.

9. In the morning, get yourself ready first.

Surprises happen. Getting your child out the door on time will be easier if you’ve already completed your own morning routine by the time your child starts theirs. On those days when your child miraculously locates both shoes, doesn’t need help with hair tangles and everything else runs like clockwork? You get a few minutes to relax.

10. Start practicing now – before school starts.

Whether you have weeks or just a couple days till school starts, build routines into the evening like lunch prep and laying out clothes, start waking up with consistent alarms, and do a couple dress rehearsals to make sure you’ve left everyone enough time in the morning.

After all, mornings set the tone for the whole day. Your extra effort will help your child’s school year get off to a bright start.