Mornings can be cray-cray! From getting yourself up and somewhat functioning to getting the kids fed, cleaned, dressed, and everything packed and ready to get out the door on time, it is no small feat. (Do you feel tired just from thinking about it?) I remember how crazy it was when we had three little ones under the age of three and how more insane it became when we added two foster twin infants to the mix a couple of years later. We know that inside the four walls, the mornings can be stressful. We have been there!
However, after nine years as a mom, I have learned that if I can get my morning off on the right foot, the rest of the day goes much smoother. Here are 4 principles you can use to help you have stress-free mornings with your kids.
1. Envision the kind of morning you want. Be very specific.
My morning goal has been the same the last few years: Our kids will go off to school happy.
Our three children are now nine and seven years old, and they attend a local public school. It means that five days out of seven, they do the same thing every morning. I want my kids to leave home happy.
This vision for our morning means a few things for us:
Yes to calm and level-headed mom and dad,
Yes to everyone doing their job,
Yes to added time for snuggles,
Yes to breakfast at the table,
Yes to morning devotion as a family.
No to rushing,
No to yelling,
No to arguments.
I don’t want to see my kids leave for school discouraged, in tears, or angry. Sometimes it happens. But, in general, my goal for the morning is happy kids and happy parents.
What is your goal for your morning? Be specific and simple.
2. Preview and Review:
My dad taught me this principle when I was a little girl: Preview, Review. It was a study skill that he showed me to use. Preview what you will learn tomorrow and review after you have learned it. I have found this principle to be useful in many ways, particularly in having a stress-free morning!
Our kids are s-l-o-w morning risers, and if I may say so, grumpy ones too. They love slow mornings, and if they had their choice, they would prefer to wake up every day after 8:30 a.m. (I know, some of you are envious!) But, on school days when school starts at 7:50 am, we cannot afford a slow morning. Our kids wake-up at 6:45 am.
We do a preview on Sunday night for the upcoming week. We go through our school day routine. On Sundays when I am soloing (as my husband is working) and need to get to church early to teach Sunday school class, I preview Sunday morning expectations with them Saturday night. If I am substitute teaching at a school, I let them know the day before so that they have a heads up about my availability. It works well with our kids.
The younger your kids are the more concrete they are.
If you are very specific about what you need them to do in the mornings, they are eager to help. Invite them into a discussion about what they can do to get the morning off to a good start. (You can do this even with kids in preschool. Make a chart and give them a maximum of three tasks they can do without your supervision with ample time.) They usually have ideas about how to help. If not, we are prepared to offer an action plan.
For parents with young kids ages 3 and younger, you must preview your day and have concrete plans for how you’re going to have the morning you want. Have a plan and be very specific, and build in extra margin time.
Through trial and error, we have learned that our kids need at least 50 minutes to get out the door happy. (When they were little I always doubled the time I thought it would take to get us out the door. For example, if I thought it would take me 20 minutes, I started 40 minutes earlier.) The key to happy morning for us has been to give the kids and I ample time to do our responsibilities. No rushing.
We have finally arrived at having a good morning routine as a family. But, it happened after lots of reviewing, tweaking, making changes, and trying out some new methods to get better at having better mornings. Keep working at it. You will find a rhythm that works for your family.
3. The Night Before Matters:
Sometimes I don’t think we realize how important the night before is to for a happy morning the next day. In general, for kids who go to public school, they have a schedule that they must follow. It means that the evenings are not as flexible as we like it to be.
On school nights, our kids are in bed by 8:30 pm. When they were younger, they were in bed between 7 pm and 7:30 p.m. We have some more extended evenings here and there when we have guests, but in general, we try our best to stick to our sleep schedule. Our kids need their sleep!
When the kids were younger, I saved my evening times for things that didn’t take a lot of brain power. I did my grocery shopping at night when the kids were in bed. I did (and still do) my meal planning for the week or the next day in the evening. I still make sure to tidy up in the evening (especially my kitchen) because I do not like walking into a messy living room in the morning (and messy/clean is a relative term….some of you might think my clean is quite messy!).
When my kids were really young, I made sure that the diapers, wipes, snacks, and whatever needed to be restocked in my diaper bag was ready the night before so I can just pick up and leave. If I needed to do any chopping and toddler meal preparation, I did it in the evening.
My evenings, especially when the kids were young were used to prepare and to recharge for the next day. These days, the evenings have become time for deeper connection with our kids and with my husband.
4. Divide and Conquer:
In the book, The Transition to Parenthood it looks at marital satisfaction in couples after becoming parents. One of the most significant factors in marital satisfaction is in how couples deal with the division of labor in the home. I believe it. Many of our initial arguments as new parents centered on our perception of fairness in the division of labor at home.
My husband and I have pretty well-defined roles in the morning. He’s in charge of waking up the kids and making breakfast. I am in charge of going in after his initial wake-up call to give a snuggle, to make sure they are actually up and sack their lunches.
When we had one elementary aged child with younger siblings, one of us was in charge of the child who needed to get out the door first. The other parent took care of the children who were younger.
Probably there are some of you with husbands who leave for work early in the morning before the kids are awake. If that is you, it is even more critical that you and your spouse have clear expectations about the division of labor when it comes to mornings. They can still participate in the divide and conquer plan. It just means that you are both on the same page about what would help everyone have the best morning possible.
I don’t know what you need him to do to help you, but parenting is a partnership, and we can graciously ask for help. Most husbands are more than willing to help if it means that he will have a happier wife. 🙂
You can have stress-free mornings. It is within your reach.
Envision the kind of morning you want. Give a preview of it to your kids, to yourself, and to your spouse. Do the work of planning so that you can execute well. Divide and conquer together as a couple and as a family. Review how it is going. Don’t be afraid to get back to the drawing board to make the necessary tweaks and changes.
Your morning is waiting for you to make it what you want.
What is your goal for the morning? How are you planning to get there? What are the hurdles that you are tackling today? Feel free to share here!