We start each new school year with the best intentions of getting our kids out the door without too much hassle and handling after-school activities including homework. But the sad truth is that we slip up and throw in the towel after a few weeks. What is the secret of staying on track in ways that make our family's life go smoother once the children are back in school? -- Disorganized


Perhaps the secret for your family is not to do too much at first. Don't try to remake all of your family routines. Start by choosing to structure either the morning or the after-school routine. Then after several months, or whenever this routine becomes second nature, add the other routine. We are going to give you some suggestions for each routine. You don't have to incorporate all the suggestions into your routine. Instead, choose the ones that fit your family's personality and are age-appropriate for your children.

Morning Routines

1. Successful morning routines start the night before. Clothes should be selected, baths taken, alarms set and backpacks laid by the door.

2. Create a realistic morning schedule for your children that includes breakfast and departure times.

3. Include in your routine time for brushing teeth and putting on outerwear.

4. Use timers for dressing and eating.

5. Have a strategy for making school lunches or paying for them.

6. Use music as a transition to eating and/or leaving home -- different tunes for each activity. This can be programmed into an electronic device.

7. Eliminate all use of electronic media.

8. Post the routine in a prominent spot.

9. Be willing to change parts of the routine that simply do not work. After-School Routines

1. Successful afternoon routines will need to have some latitude, as activities do vary. You may need different routines for different days.

2. Include a time for snacks. Kids love them, and snack time is a great time to talk about what happened at school.

3. Choose a definite time for homework, dinner and going to bed.

4. Include a definite play time for fun each day, if possible. The benefits of having reliable routines are well-documented. They pay off in healthier and better behaved children, as well as improved family relationships. Try not to give up this time in establishing reliable routines. Changing behaviors does take time.