Taking the madness out of your mornings

Are you a morning person or a night owl? Someone may be able to guess the answer simply by looking at your age. Studies show significantly more older people prefer the mornings, compared to people under 30. That doesn’t bode well for households with kids, where things can be chaotic before anyone even walks out the door.

The challenge

“Mornings are one of the two hardest times for most families (the other being dinner), because so many parts have to be coordinated at those times,” said SSM Health psychologist Dr. Robert Peyton. “During the morning, the challenge is adequately preparing the family to separate from each other. Things like transportation, hygiene, food, clothing and materials for the day need to be coordinated.”

Dr. Peyton said doing all of these things without a routine would be like trying to cook a five-course meal by “winging it.” It’s possible, but it would be stressful and surprising if there weren’t any problems.

Regular routines make coordinating all of the different needs possible, and eventually less taxing. But it all won’t happen at once. Young children need to be given time to understand all of the pieces of the puzzle. The end result will hopefully be a low-stress routine that is the byproduct of a lot of step-by-step work to get all the parts learned and moving well.

Productive nights make for better mornings

If it’s possible, save yourself time in the morning by preparing things at night. Many of the to-do items on the morning list can be checked off the night before.

“Make, or at least start, everyone’s lunch/food needs, set out cereal or other breakfast items, and lay out outfits and clothing,” said Dr. Peyton. “If it’s a large family, hopefully some people can take a shower the night before so everyone isn’t fighting for space in the morning.”

While many things can be taken care of, there still needs to be a schedule in the morning. Each family member has to know who will do what, and when, in advance. And don’t forget to give young children lenience and guidance, as many of them will need to be reminded of the steps during the morning routine.

Waking up a child: Sounds simple, right?

Many parents will tell you that the simple act of getting a child out of bed can be a challenge. Good sleep hygiene, like keeping the bedroom reserved for just sleeping, is highly recommended. Another thing that may help is normalcy each day. Daily exercise, avoiding naps (except for very young children), and consistent sleep times can be beneficial. And don’t let things get too lax on the weekends.

“On days off, unfortunately, sleeping-in by anything more than an hour will almost certainly make a mess of a routine, and lead to a tough several days to re-adjust,” said Dr. Peyton. “If you know a big change is coming, take the time to slowly prepare for it over numerous days by making small adjustments.”

Top 3 takeaways

What are the three main things to remember when it comes to morning madness? Dr. Peyton has these final reminders for anyone looking to make things a little more calm.

• Preparation the night before will take a lot of the stress and challenge out of the morning, and going to sleep on time is part of that preparation.

• Routine is the answer to a smooth-running morning. And of course you have to then follow that routine, because just planning it doesn’t help much.

• Your own calm and apparent lack of stress will matter a lot in keeping other people who depend on you calm and moving smoothly. Relaxed and happy parents don’t always have relaxed and happy mornings, but it makes it a lot more likely.

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