Mornings are chaotic in many households but when you add working, spouses, children, school, daycare, etc. to the mixture havoc can take over a normally peaceful environment. Unfortunately, this hurried frantic pace sets the tone for the rest of the day. When your morning activities run smoothly and you're out the door with ample time, it can make a significant difference the whole rest of the day. As so many of us know first-hand, how the morning starts can make or break a day for children and parents with things to do and places to be.
Here are a few tips I've incorporated into my own life and picked up from parents and experts along the way:
1. PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE.
Do as much as you can before heading off to sleep so that your mornings feel less rushed. For example, lay out your clothes (and that of your young children); pack school bookbags, briefcases, diaper bags, etc; put all essential items right by the exit door; prepare lunches; and, set out breakfast dishes. Plan your next day the night before, too. No matter how tired you are, you'll sleep better if you know you have tomorrow already organized. The key is to eliminate as many chores and decisions from your morning as possible.
2. AWAKEN EARLIER.
Set the alarm clock about a half hour earlier and enjoy the less hurried pace. Remember, this pace sets the tone for the rest of the day. Get up ahead of the 'crowd' and enjoy the quiet un-hurried pace of the beginning of your day and may even give you the opportunity to carve out some private time for yourself.
3. PUT ON YOUR WATCH FIRST.
Keep an eye on the time by having it handy upon your wrist. This will help you monitor and keep better track of your time.
4. KEEP YOUR HOUSEHOLD ORGANIZED.
Have a place you always put your keys, gloves, shoes, coat, etc. That way you will not be spending time frantically searching for items on your way out the door. Some experts suggest using plastic tubs or decorated boxes labeled with each family member's name and leaving them by the door as the drop-off location.
5. PLAY A GAME.
Have a race to see who can get dressed first, finish eating, brush teeth, put on shoes, get in the car, etc. Make it fun and non-competitive. Give everyone a chance to be the 'winner' and offer praise for getting done so quickly. Your praise and positive reinforcement will encourage your children to continue meeting their goals more than criticism and judgements.
6. HAVE AN ASSORTMENT OF CONVENIENT HEALTHY FOODS ON HAND FOR BREAKFAST.
Rather than skipping breakfast because you're running behind and don't have adequate time, take the time to fuel up on instant oatmeal, dry cereals, cereal bars, toaster cakes, bagels, fruits, trail mix, frozen waffles, etc. Breakfast can be quick and nutritious if you plan ahead and remain fully stocked with your family's favorites.
7. SIMPLIFY CLOTHING.
Avoid fabrics that are hard to care for. Stick to color schemes and mix/match outfits. Group similar items together in the closet to make them easy to match up. Sew on buttons, fix zippers, repair hems, etc. before hanging clothes back in your closet so that they are ready to be worn the next time you pull them out.
8. LET GO OF PERFECTION.
Unless your house in listed on the market to be sold, it really doesn't have to be spotless before you leave the house everyday. From time-to-time allow yourself to leave with the beds un-made, dishes soaking in the sink, a few toys left out, etc. It's not about lowering your standards but accepting your limitations.
9. ENLIST EVERYONE'S COOPERATION.
Rather than attempting to do it all yourself, get everyone involved in the goal of having a less hectic morning. Request suggestions and share responsibilities. Empower the "home" team to achieve the goal blissfully each day. Show your kids how to do more things for themselves. Encourage greater independence in your children; make mornings a balance between intervention and independence. Keep distractions such as the TV, favorite toys, etc. out of sight or at least kept to a minimum. Praise the successes and accomplishments along the way because your words of praise will encourage your children to continue to meet their goals.
10. GET ADEQUATE SLEEP.
Sticking to a bedtime routine can give your child a sense of comfort. However, no matter how well-prepared you and your children are for the morning, if he/she doesn't get enough sleep the night before, you'll definitely be off to a rough start of the day. Make sure everyone goes to sleep early enough the night before to get adequate rest for his/her body and mind. After a restful night's sleep you'll all be ready to take on more. Make sure your beds are comfortable and you've established an environment to support a good night's sleep. Keep to your schedule as much as possible, even on weekends and vacations.
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