By: Amy Buesker (with contributions from Abra Yeh) – Adapted from a newsletter article:
The alarm goes off and the first thing you do is reach for the snooze button. Then after you drag yourself out of bed, you spend the next hour frantically trying to get yourself and your kids ready for the day. One child won’t get out of bed while another one is having a meltdown about what to eat for breakfast. You throw lunches together while tossing out constant reminders about brushing teeth and hair and giving the timing updates “We need to leave in 10 minutes…You have 5 more minutes to get your shoes on…” You consider it a successful morning if everyone makes it to school on time in mostly clean clothes with brushed teeth…Does this sound familiar?
Below you will find a few tips on smoothing out your morning routine, but before we get to those, take a moment to really sit back and think about your own morning preferences and how those might be different from those of your child. When you are looking at your morning schedule and difficulties you encounter, consider that your child may have different needs in the morning than you do. Personally I like to wake up slowly. I can’t get out of bed immediately after waking up. I hate artificial lights in the morning so I never turn on lights unless it is really dark and even then I turn on as little as possible. I do not like to talk to anyone nor do I like for others to talk to me in the mornings. My mother, on the other hand, wakes up bright and sunny and ready for the day. When I was younger I used to get so irritated when she tried to talk to me in the morning, had all the lights on in the kitchen, and was so full of energy. Luckily I had a very understanding mom who learned quickly and gave me space in the mornings. She was even my personal alarm clock, waking me up gently every morning because she knew how much I hated alarms. I could even “snooze” her and she’d come back 10 minutes later. Pretty amazing! I’m sure this wasn’t her ideal way to spend the morning, but she was willing to make the sacrifice in order to avoid having a really grumpy and uncooperative daughter every morning! Check out the tips below and see if some of these changes in your morning routine might be worth a few extra minutes in order to reduce your daily battles and stress.
Create a morning routine and stick to it. Once you and your child have decided on a routine that works for your family, the sequence of events and the reason for each step need to be understood by everyone involved. This ensures that each family member appreciates his or her role in the process and eliminates any uncertainty that may cause meltdowns.
Determine how your child likes input in the morning and create a schedule to match these needs. Hint: mornings may differ from other times of day. A child that can normally follow auditory directions in the middle of the day may have trouble processing them first thing in the morning or may simply desire a quieter environment in the morning. You can create a visual schedule to guide the steps in the morning routine and non-verbally refer them to that for the next steps rather than using constant verbal reminders. You can also use an iDevice or other smart phone app to create a checklist where your child can physically check off each step s/he has completed. (We all like checking things off our list right?)
Some families choose to have young children sleep in the shirt that they will wear to school the next day and simply change their pants in the morning. On cold mornings you might also want to consider getting a space heater for the child’s room to make changing a little easier. Another trick is to put the clothes that you want the child to wear in the dryer just before having them get dressed. Putting on nice warm clothes straight out of the dryer can be very enticing!
Have your child help pack his/her lunch. If you are often pressed for time during the week, but have more leisurely weekends then maybe you can spend an hour on Saturdays or Sundays preparing lunch items for the week. You can cut up fruit or veggies ahead of time and put them in lunch portion size re-sealable containers. Snack bags can also be created in the same way. Have a variety of items for your child to choose from and allow your child to choose 2 fruit/vegetable options and 1 snack item and a drink. You can then simply add a sandwich or other protein-rich option and the meal is done!
Prepare what you can the night before. As part of the bedtime routine, involve your child in the process of preparing for the next morning. Collect items that are needed for the next day and put them by the door. This will eliminate frantic searching in the morning and make sure nothing gets left behind as you walk out the door.
What do you do to help your mornings run smoothly? Leave your tips below!