Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
1:00 AM 9th September 2023

How To Avoid The Stress Of The School Run

Photo by Jan Baborák on Unsplash
Photo by Jan Baborák on Unsplash
Although significant life events like moving house and getting divorced are typically seen as some of the most stressful times of our lives, on a more day-to-day level, the school run is often the most stressful part of the day for parents.

With the month of September now here, parents across the country will be getting their kids back into the routines that come at the start of a new school year, with the school drop-off a main part of this. Getting the kids out of bed, fed, dressed and into the car with their uniform and book bags in tow isn’t an easy task, and neither is negotiating the traffic and other drivers on the road at rush hour.

However, the school run doesn’t have to be stressful, and what better time to get into new, calm habits than at the start of a new school year?

Thankfully, the motoring company Scrap Car Comparison have put together their top tips to help parents feel calmer and more in control when dropping their kids to school this academic year.

Prep the night before

There’s nothing worse than desperately trying to scramble together the essentials before getting in the car, whatever journey you’re heading on. Spending time the night before preparing everything you’ll need for the trip - in this case, any packed lunches, PE kits, school bags, uniforms or school projects - will make the morning a much smoother experience.

You can even go as far as packing up the car ahead of time too, so you know everything is where it should be, leaving you to focus on getting the children where they need to be. Though it may be the last thing you want to do in the evening, making this part of your family’s routine before heading to bed each evening will certainly pay off.

Leave plenty of time

Although it may well be easier said than done, create your morning routine with plenty of contingency time for delays. Whether it’s the kids not wanting to get out of bed, struggling to find the right PE kit or tantrums over breakfast, many things can slow down even the most well-rehearsed morning routine.

Leaving plenty of time to get out of the house and in the car will help to keep you calmer in the face of any delays on the roads and ensure that your frustrations don’t boil over into potentially costly and dangerous mistakes behind the wheel.

Use breathing techniques

Running late and being stuck in heavy traffic while trying to get the kids to school on time is enough to make anyone stressed, but taking a few moments to bring the focus back onto yourself will help re-centre you and keep your attention on the road.

Though rushing out of the door and getting the car moving as quickly as possible might be the natural thing to do if you’re running late, taking a few seconds to take some deep breaths before setting off on your journey will help to give you some focus.

It’s important to not let other drivers on the road affect you too, so practising these techniques when stuck in traffic or when doing battle for parking spaces by the school gates can help to give you a moment to refocus and ensure you get from A to B safely.

Dial down the road rage - put yourself in their shoes

Though it’s easy to get frustrated when running late, directing this frustration towards other drivers on the road will never solve the problem. According to mindfulness expert Neil Seligman, having a little compassion and putting yourself in the shoes of the other driver can be an excellent way to stop your emotions from boiling over: “Before you allow the anger to rise, ask yourself - Do I do that? If you can be honest with yourself when you ask this question, you may find that the driver cutting in or frustrating you, is doing something that you may have done the other day or is at least sharing the same objective.”

Keep an eye out for cyclists and pedestrians

Though many children will be driven to school, some may walk or cycle. With children not as competent with the rules of the road, it’s worth being on extra high alert for any new cyclists who aren’t as confident manoeuvring around cars, or for any children who may forget to look before stepping out into the road. In the case of bikes, it’s worth leaving plenty of space when following or overtaking, and practising the ‘Dutch reach’ once you’ve parked, and encouraging your children to do the same, to ensure that no one is accidentally hit by a flying car door.

Park sensibly

Though it can be tempting to pull over in any old spot by the school gates, when space is at a premium, it’s important to consider other motorists and road users. Parking up on the pavement restricts walkways for those with pushchairs, or in wheelchairs, who aren’t safely able to walk on the road. Equally, parking in front of driveways and ‘do not park’ areas will only annoy local residents. It’s also important to keep junctions clear to ensure that other drivers have a clear line of sight when pulling out. Be sure to consider emergency service vehicles when parking too, as they’re too wide to squeeze between rows of parked cars on each side of the road.

Keep on top of your car maintenance

Though checking your tyre pressures and oil may seem unnecessary for such a short journey, keeping on top of your vehicle’s maintenance routine will help to avoid adding extra stress to the school run with an unexpected breakdown. Simple tasks such as putting fuel in your car are much easier without having to leave kids in the car, so try and make sure this is done before or after the school run, rather than during. No one likes getting stuck with a flat tyre while in a rush either, so checking the pressure is correct, and that you’ve got no nails or other items stuck in the tread regularly will help to avoid this too.

Plan your route

Although it’s a journey you do on a very regular basis, it’s still worth sense-checking your route each morning before setting off. Unexpected road closures or accidents can create traffic that will result in a much slower journey, so checking the route before setting off will give you time to find an alternative, or at the minimum, leave you expecting delays - which is much better than unknowingly running into it!

Keep your car clean

They say a tidy house helps to give a tidy mind, and having a tidy car is just the same. Getting into a messy car won’t be any good for your sense of calm and clarity in the morning, so tidying it out weekly will help to stop the mess from piling up. Equally, giving the interior of the car a clean more than once every blue moon will not only keep it looking better, smelling fresher, and make it more hygienic with fewer germs lingering, but it’ll also help to prolong the life of any upholstery and help to avoid your vehicle looking tatty before its time.

David Kottuan, Operations Manager at Scrap Car Comparison adds:
“Any parent will tell you that the school run is a far from relaxing way to start the morning. Rushing is a very easy way to fall into trouble on the roads, as frustrations rise and boil over, and small mistakes start to creep in.

“Though they may seem insignificant, these circumstances create a much higher risk of having an accident and causing damage to your vehicle, particularly when you add school gate parking into the mix too! To avoid this happening, it’s important to find techniques to keep you calm and make the mornings less stressful - whether it’s taking some deep breaths or adding in contingency time, whatever you can do to keep your family safe on the roads is worth it.”