If you are one of those parents who’s morning routines are completely sorted out, you never have to stress about the time and your children follow the routines every day allowing you to leave the house on time and unflustered then please pass on your tips! For most of us however, the morning times can be very stressful indeed. Trying to manage to get yourself up and ready, your children up and ready, lunches made, leaving the house on time and so on can often feel like you are juggling too many balls in the air! And of course we also know the ‘domino’ affect of just one tiny thing going wrong which knocks everything else out of place and heightens our stress levels before we even start our day! Can you do something to help your mornings to run more smoothly and still get everyone out of the house on time? Here are some tips on managing morning routines to lessen the stress and conflict in your family:
Make Sure Kids have a Good Bedtime Routine
This is vital to help your mornings run well. If you child is tired then he/she is more likely to be slow and cranky in the mornings. Assess how much sleep your child needs and make sure that they get to bed on time. A night time routine should include a ‘wind down’ time for your child where they relax and get away from computer games or too much stimulation before bedtime. The routine of putting on pyjamas, brushing teeth and so forth can be put into a routine chart to help you child to keep to a routine. See the more about routine charts later in this article.
Do as many of the morning tasks as possible the evening before
By having as many of these tasks complete the evening before will obviously make mornings easier. There are many tasks that could be completed the night before including:
You can help your child to check his/her school bag before going to bed to make sure it is packed and ready to go. Also, if they have PE the following day, then help them to pack their PE gear that evening. Imagine having this already done to save the crazy rush around in the morning ‘I can’t find my pencil case’ or ‘I need my runners for PE but can only find one’. I am sure that you can think of loads of examples of situations that cause parents to get stressed out while running around the house looking for the missing items.
Prepare lunches the night before if possible. The lunchbox can be packed with items such as snack bars, fruit and drinks the evening before hand. If you want to make the sandwiches, this too can be done in the evening and the sandwiches can be wrapped in cling film and refrigerated overnight if suitable.
Help your child to get their clothes for the following day prepared. This should include everything they will need (including socks – why is there always one missing????). You should also decide and prepare the clothes you are going to wear yourself. There is nothing worse than trying to get out your outfit in the morning time and maybe having to try on a few outfits in the midst of the morning madness!
Use charts to help children to understand the morning routine
Charts are a wonderful way of help younger children to learn routines and to follow them. Charts are very useful in two ways – they help to teach your child what the routine is in advance and they can be used as reinforcement or encouragement during the routine as you child completes the steps. During the routine, you can point out the steps already completed to your child and praise them for those and then encourage them to complete the steps that are still to be done. To create your routine chart with your child, begin by breaking the routine into simple steps. Have each step clearly on the chart with a picture (for younger children) and a note to say what the step is. Try to include an enjoyable activity for your child towards the end of the routine chart. This will encourage your child to complete the previous steps so that they can have their enjoyable step. If possible, get your child involved in creating the chart with you – maybe colouring in the pictures or helping to break the routine into steps. In the sample chart below, each step is clearly identified and the enjoyable time for the child of ‘colouring book time’ is just before leaving for creche.
Use Rewards/Consequences to Help
And finally, what if the child doesn’t keep to the routine? What if your child/teenager is constantly causing you stress in the morning times? The key here is to have an incentive system and/or consequences or sanctions. As an incentive, you could reward a ‘star’ or a ‘point’ each day that the routine is followed exactly by your child/teen. A treat could be earned by them getting an agreed number of stars or points.
From the other side, you could also implement sanctions or consequences for when the routine is not followed. Remember, trying to impose a sanction or consequence does not have to be done in the morning time! God knows, we have enough to do then! You could have a consequence or sanction that is applied in the evening time or even at the weekend. For example, if your 10 year old simply won’t co-operate and carry out the steps in the morning time, you could have a sanction where he/she loses some TV time in the evening. For a teenager, you may have a sanction where they lose the mobile phone for a certain number of minutes and so forth. The important thing is that if you do have a consequence to issue, you MUST follow through. Following through teaches your child that the consequence will be implemented and so they are more likely to keep the rule. It also means that if you give them a warning to complete the steps or they will have the consequence, they will know that you will follow through and so are more likely to heed your warning.
I hope this gives you some tips and ideas on managing the morning routines and helping to make your mornings a little less stressful. If you have any comments or tips for parents, please email us and we will pass them on!