As my wise friend Rachel shared on Instagram last week, “First of all, you’ve GOT this! I know it’s stressful. I know it’s emotional but you’re doing just great. Take a deep breath. Know that you’re doing the best you can. Know that they’ll be just fine, even if you forget the permission slip or the bus schedule or they refuse to brush their hair on the first day.”
In other words, mornings aren’t perfect. They’re not some tidy routine that we can check off and tie up in a neat little bow as we all head out into the day – especially when kids are involved, since inevitably something gets forgotten or someone melts down, and all our well-made plans go off the rails. Let’s be real, sometimes just getting them out the door bathed and fed should be considered a major success! I do believe that mornings are an especially important time to set the tone for the rest of the day as we’ve talked about here and here, and it’s as true for kids as it is for adults. I’ve learned from experience (ie. through royally screwing it up) that a chaotic morning makes for a chaotic day, and when I tell my kids to “hurry up” more times than I can count, we all feel pretty crappy by the time we get in the car. This year I’m making it a major goal to practice these healthy habits that will get us closer than ever to happy, stress-free mornings – and get us to school before the tardy bell rings!
1 – Make sure everyone gets enough sleep.
We’re pretty relaxed about bedtimes during the summer; it stays light outside late, and sometimes an after-dinner ice cream shop run is totally worth everyone sleeping in the next day. That said, once the school year begins and 6:45am wake-up calls become mandatory, we get pretty strict about bedtime. We aim to get both Phoebe and Henry tucked in with lights out by 7:30pm, and when we do, they’re such happier little people the next morning. And remember that kids should practice good “sleep hygiene”, too: nix the phones, computers, sugar, and caffeine (obvi) in the evening.
2 – Challenge your kids to set an intention for the day.
Even though I sometimes get an eye roll, I love talking with Phoebe each morning about setting a positive intention for the day ahead. Sometimes it’s regarding a goal she’s set for herself at school, other times it’s a chance for us to talk about spreading kindness to others as she goes about her day, like intentionally going out of her way to hang out with a kid on the playground who’s playing alone.
3 – Let your kids take ownership of their morning routine.
I’m really working on letting the kids become more independent with their morning responsibilities. Create a chart with their age-appropriate schedule, and have them check their way through it. Young kids can get themselves dressed and put on shoes, and as they get a little older they can make the bed and fill up their water bottle. My friend, Anne, just bought her 6 and 8 year-old-daughters an alarm clock, and they get themselves up and make their own lunches each morning! I’ve found that our kids can really surprise us when we get out of their way and let them try challenging new tasks for themselves.
4 – Do as much as you can the night before.
This is key to eliminating stress in the morning. Pack lunches, load backpacks, sign permission slips, fill water bottles, and lay out outfits for the next day.
Along those same lines, have a designated place for everything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled at Phoebe to “find your shoes and hop in the car!!” so we’ve started making it a point to line up shoes by the door before going to bed the next day so we’re not late for school because of some last-minute search. School stuff like backpacks and folders can live on a hook or in a box per family member so you can grab them as you run out the door.
5 – Make time for tickles!
Or whatever it is that’ll get everyone laughing and help them shake off the sleepies first thing. A 2-minute dance party, silly make-the-bed song, or just a massive bear hug all do the trick and release a major dose of endorphins for everyone.
No matter what happens, stay calm – or at least appear to stay calm by using a calm voice and it’ll at least take the stress down a couple notches. Because you know what? It’s all going to be just fine. You got this.