By: Dr Justin Coulson
A mum recently had the morning off. Her husband agreed to get the kids set for school, and she took advantage of her newfound freedom by taking a walk around the block.
“I felt so relieved” she told her friend later that day. “Every house I went past that had kids, I heard all of the parents screaming at their kids. I thought I was the only one that hated mornings. I felt guilty about it, but I was so glad I’m not the only one that has kids that can’t get it together in the mornings.”
But it doesn’t need to be so hard. Here are the tips you need to make mornings magic at your place.
Remember that your morning starts the night before
Running late because the kids can’t find their sports uniform? Or their socks? Or their shoes or lunchbox or reading folder? Sort it out the night before.
In our home we follow this routine every night:
1. Screens off at dinner
Yep. That’s it. For everyone. As soon as dinner starts, screens go into the basked in the parent’s room and stay there until morning. All screens. I repeat: for everyone including parents. If the big kids need them for homework, they can negotiate after dinner.
2. After dinner, check uniforms for tomorrow
Make sure that uniforms are ironed, shoes and socks are found, hats are sorted, and everything is set out for the next day.
3. Organise school bags and lunch boxes
Check your calendar and ensure the kids have their bag packed with their sport gear, their library books, or anything else that may need to take to school the next day.
4. Give your kids a breakfast menu to fill out
In our home, we do it like they do in hotels. The kids circle the food options they want – and we give them plenty to choose from. Spaghetti and baked beans, eggs however you like, toast, cereal, muffins, drinks… the works. Make sure they fill it out completely.
(I can feel you stressing already. Stay calm. You’ll see why this works well soon.)
5. Give your kids a lunch menu to complete
Think of everything your kids might possibly eat for lunch. Their fruit. Some chopped vegetables. A sandwich. Leftovers. Whatever else you’re happy for them to eat. Put it on the menu and get them to fill it out.
6. Finish your normal night routine
When kids go to bed early and relaxed (without screens) they’ll wake up happier the next day. Cuddles, stories, baths, teeth and hair should take care of your evening. And then YOU make sure you get the sleep you need. Screens off. Talk to your partner or loved one, read a book. Get your full 8 hours.
Create a morning checklist
If you’re constantly telling the kids what to do in the mornings, save your energy by creating a simple checklist for them to follow. Stick it on their wall. Use pictures if they’re younger.
And no rewards. Just a check-box if they want to ‘tick’ that they’ve done it. The list is there so you don’t have to keep track of who’s not done what.
Wake up ten minutes early
Start the day off by getting up earlier than you need – and by getting the kids up earlier than they need. But do it the right way.
My suggestion: sit on your kids’ bed and scratch their back. Spend a few minutes talking to them about their day and what they’re looking forward to. Then let them know it’s time to get moving and you’re there to help if they need it.
Do as little as possible
This is the best bit.
Walk into the kitchen or living area. Then watch your kids do their stuff.
They’ll leave their room dressed in their uniform because guess what? It was laid out the night before.
They’ll walk into the kitchen for brekky, grab their menu, and organise things themselves, because guess what? It was laid out the night before. If they get stuck, you can help them to scramble the eggs or whatever is beyond them. But they’ll be able to organise most of it themselves.
They’ll grab their lunch menu and organise their fruit, their veggies, their snack, and their drink. They might ask for a bit of help with a sandwich if they’re small. Maybe cling wrap is tricky. You can give them a hand. But guess what? They can do most of it on their own, and it’s easy because they did the thinking last night.
Now and then they’ll look a little lost. You get to say, “What’s next on your list?” Or you might ask, “Is there something you need a hand with?”
But most of the time, your job is to sit, smile, and help out where needed.
Some of these things are a little tough for kids under the age of five. It can still be tricky. But most kids can manage most of these things without too much trouble. And that means that when someone walks past your house in the morning, they’ll hear your family having a magic morning.
Article supplied with thanks to Happy Families.
About the Author: A sought after public speaker and author, and former radio broadcaster, Justin has a psychology degree from the University of Queensland and a PhD in psychology from the University of Wollongong.