For many families, mornings are something we approach through gritted teeth and held breath. Getting an entire family up and out the door – fed, dressed and friendly – is a feat worth celebrating, yet seldom achieved. I have only one child, soon to be a teen, and yet still we struggle to match morning routines and walk out the door on speaking terms (yelling terms though, this is where we excel).
But over the years, I have spent time exploring how other families handle their mornings, and to my relief, I discovered the madness was not something unique to my little family of two. And to my greater relief, I found some guidelines, some answers, some Hail Mary’s that help me every day in moulding the behaviour of my family to help get us out the door in a friendly manner.
1. SLEEP: Is everyone getting enough?
It seems obvious, but before you can tackle the morning madness and start building a workable routine, you need to look at the night prior and make sure everyone is getting enough sleep – children and parents. A well-rested family will wake happier and have more strength in reserve to cope with the day.
2. PREPARATION: The night before.
A very wise friend once told me, 10 minutes of night organisation can save 10 minutes of morning madness. It’s a rule I now live by. Every night, I take the time to prepare for the next day. It might be as simple as getting out breakfast bowls and cereal, or in my case I encourage my daughter to pack her school lunch and lay out her uniform. Not only is this a tip for the kids, but also the parents – pack your bag, make sure you have everything you need ready to go (including your keys). A calm morning never starts by screaming: “Where are my keys!?”
3. WAKE UP EARLY: Before your kids.
As the leader of the pack, waking up 15-30 minutes before your kids gives you time to quietly prepare for the day. Being showered and dressed before the first sleepy eye cracks open will have you much better equipped to handle whatever is thrown at you.
4. CHARTS: Spell out the routine.
Clearly and concisely spell out a morning routine that suits your individual family needs. Pictures can be used instead of words for families with young children, including all things that need to get done:
• Get dressed
• Brush hair
• Eat breakfast
• Brush teeth
• Put on shoes
• Grab your bag and go!
Once a routine has been agreed on, it’s important to talk about the routine with each member of the family so everyone knows what they need to do.
5. STAY CALM: Be connected.
Kids are more aware of their surroundings than we often give credit for and they know when the house is edging toward morning madness – in the face of chaos they will slow down. So when you feel yourself becoming frantic, stay calm, and reconnect with your child. Get down on the floor, on their level, and talk to your child, ask them for their help.
6. HELP THEM: Understand that you are the adult, they are children.
With all of the above in place, the greatest sanity-preserving tip I was given, is to understand that most of us need some time to shift gear from sleep to activity. If as an adult, we need 15-30 minutes in the morning to wake and prepare for the day, so do the little family members. In understanding that, I can better appreciate that my daughter needs my help in the morning and so I build a little extra time into the morning routine to allow for a one on one chat or breakfast together. If you have younger children, the extra time could be used for a morning cuddle or a fun reward when everyone is ready, early.
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