These ways to make mornings easier will help your family start their day with a smile, rather than stress. If your family is like mine, a low-stress morning is the stuff of dreams.
Rumor has it some people spring out of bed excited to start their day. I’ve never seen one of those people, probably because I try to avoid all human contact until I’ve started my second cup of coffee. When my kids were little, that was a challenge.
Over the years, I learned a few things about making mornings easier — mostly because I got tired of apologizing for getting them to school late. There are only so many times you can blame the dog for burying your keys, or claim your car battery needed a jump, before educators begin thinking you’re one fruit loop shy of a full bowl.
How to Make Mornings Easier
Kids Don’t Understand Time As We Do
I despise being late. I panic if I’m not 15 minutes early to an appointment. As the saying goes, “Early is on time, and on time is late.”
My kids? When they were young, their concept of time was fluid. “I’m getting ready” meant they were sitting in bed. “I’m ready to go” meant they’d just started putting on clothes. It drove me batty!
Now that my oldest is a mother herself, she’s so punctual that you could set a clock by her. Even my youngest (who was the slowest in the morning) gets out the door on time in the morning without one word from me.
It’s heaven, really, and I like to think it’s thanks to these habits I adopted over the years in my efforts to make mornings easier.
1. Wake up BEFORE your kids, not TO them.
There’s no way around it: waking up right before you wake the kids guarantees you’ll start the day struggling. Even if your children are old enough to get themselves out of bed, you’ll still be torn between tending to your own morning routine and keeping theirs on track. Fifteen minutes earlier is enough to make an enormous difference.
The best way to decide when to set your alarm is by adding up the time you need to have coffee or tea and get yourself ready to go. Once your routine is done, get the kids up and you’re free to monitor them while checking email or tidying up the kitchen.
2. Make waking up less miserable.
If you need to set a blaring alarm (or two) to wake up, you already know what an unpleasant way that is to start the day. I used to do the same thing, then I switched to a sunrise-simulating alarm clock. What a difference that made! I’m going on three years of waking up on time, every time, without aggravating noise.
Sunrise alarms are great for kids, too. You might think “Oh, I don’t want my kids learning to wake at first light every day, including the weekends!” Skip the alarm on the weekend and use blackout curtains in their bedroom, and you’ll all get to sleep late.
3. Know what everyone is going to wear.
Nothing can throw a schedule out of whack faster than a kid who decides they simply cannot wear the outfit they’ve got on and must change. Make choosing outfits part of the bedtime routine to keep fashion emergencies from messing up your mornings.
Worried your kid will still come up with a reason to swap? My oldest was like that, so I had her choose two outfits the night before — clothes, accessories, shoes, even underwear. If she decided on a last-minute switch, it only took a couple of minutes — if she did not, she had an outfit ready to go for the next day.
4. Use baskets in the bathroom.
Having to search for where your sibling put the toothpaste this time can slow kids down. Ditto for hair products, deodorant, etc. Yes, it saves money buying things the kids can share, but it’ll cost you time in the morning.
Instead, give everyone a bathroom basket containing all of the things they need to start and end the day. Include toothpaste, comb or brush, hair products, deodorant, lotion, etc. As a bonus, their bathroom counters stay neater when they get in the habit of putting things back in their basket.
5. Create and post a schedule.
You might think they ought to know the routine. How hard is it, really, to get up, get dressed, brush your teeth, eat breakfast and get out the door? Well, it’s apparently hard enough that you’re reading this. Don’t feel bad, though: we still joke with my youngest about the time he started to get in the car wearing pajamas because no one had told him to get dressed.
Establish a schedule for your kids to get them through all of the things they must do in the morning — and again at bedtime, if you like — then print it up. You can make it as attractive or utilitarian as you want. Hang copies all over — the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen — so they never wonder what they’re supposed to be doing.
6. Reward them for getting ready early.
No one is saying you need to give them a trophy for getting ready on time. In fact, please don’t do that! Still, finding a few ways to acknowledge successful efforts gives kids an incentive to stay on schedule.
Need some ideas? Let the first one choose the music for the ride to school. My youngest loved to play a round or two of old-fashioned jacks at the kitchen table when we had time to spare. Blowing bubbles in the house or driveway is another one, or give them bonus screen time to watch cartoons.
It’s worth it.
Mornings might never be your favorite time of the day, but you can make mornings easier. The important part is sticking with it. Before long, they’ll be in the habit of making it through their morning routine without you. That’s when you know you’re on your way to raising independent, productive future adults — which, after all, is one of the main goals of parenting!
Note: This entry first appeared on November 22, 2016. It has been revised and updated for republication.