Mornings used to feel like an endurance test. The alarm would go off like a starter’s pistol and I’d be out of bed in seconds. It felt like I barely had time to draw breath for the next two hours. Then I found a few tricks that helped our family establish a stress-free morning routine. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
1We all need enough sleep
We’re not just talking about the kids here. If you’ve been on the go all day, it can be tempting to stay up later than you should. After all, we deserve some downtime – a glass of wine, a chance to chat or watch television. Otherwise, life becomes a cycle of parenting, work and bed, and not much else.
If we’re tired, though, we don’t function at our best. Waking up in the morning becomes even more difficult. So be sensible. If you’re tired, have an early night. Go to bed when the kids do, if you feel like it.
Check your children’s bedtimes too, and adjust their evening routine if you need to. This chart from The National Sleep Foundation can help; just work backwards from the time you need to wake them to ensure you’re out of the door on time.
2Preparation is everything
There never seems to be enough time in the mornings – so do a few jobs the night before to make life easier. It takes seconds to check everyone’s shoes are lined up by the front door, but it could save 15 minutes of looking for the one that’s missing next morning.
- Get breakfast ready. It depends on what everyone eats, of course, but even putting out boxes of cereal, bowls and spoons can save time. Make sure there’s bread, plates and knives by the toaster. My daughter liked fruit and yoghurt, so I’d chop the fruit and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight, with a pot of yoghurt next to it – as close to grab-and-go as it could be.
- Make the packed lunches. If your kids are old enough, they can do theirs themselves. Even if they eat at school and only need snacks, these can be prepared – and possibly packed – the night before.
- Set out everyone’s clothes. Lay out school uniforms or get your child to pick what they’ll wear the next day. Don’t forget items like socks; it’s notoriously difficult to find a matching pair when you’re rushing around on a deadline!
- Pack bags and briefcases. This is a real timesaver. Make sure everyone has the right books, files, PE kits and whatever else they need for the next day. That goes for you, too. Have a place for items you can’t pack until the morning, like lunchboxes, and a designated place for things like house keys so everyone knows where they are.
3Get up before the kids do
This might sound obvious, but we know how tempting it can be to lie in bed for ‘just ten more minutes’ – especially if it’s cold or rainy outside. Set your alarm to give yourself some waking-up time if you need it and get out of bed 20-30 minutes before your kids do.
You’ll have the bathroom to yourself, time to check everything’s ready for the day ahead, and maybe even a few quiet moments to enjoy your morning coffee. While they’re eating breakfast, you can load up the car or make sure shoes and outdoor clothing are where they should be.
4Spell it out
If you need to, make a chart for each child listing what they need to do in the morning. This can go right down to basics such as brushing their teeth and getting dressed. Use pictures for younger children. Tweak as you go – some kids might find it easier to remember tasks in a different order than you do. Let them tick each task off the list every day to start with, but as they get used to a set routine they’ll follow it without thinking.
Build something fun into the morning routine to encourage your kids to do the ‘boring’ stuff.
Try, “When you’ve got dressed and made your bed, then you can watch Sesame Street for 15 minutes while you eat your breakfast.” Or, “When everything is ready and all you have to do is put your shoes on, then you can play with your toys/on my iPad until it’s time to leave.”
It gives your kids an incentive to do the less enjoyable jobs and, by having a set time for fun, they’re less likely to get distracted than if you let them have the television on while they get dressed, for example.
Even the best-planned routines can go awry sometimes. There’ll still be days when you feel yourself getting stressed because someone’s shoe is missing or you can’t find the car keys. Try not to get frustrated or start shouting. Take a deep breath. Explain to your child that you really need their help right now – perhaps they can help a younger sibling put their shoes on while you look for those keys.