Taming Morning Madness

art-0813-morning-madnessAs a busy parent, do you dread mornings? The mad rush to get everyone up, dressed, fed, and out of the house on time can aggravate the mellowest parent. If you are like many families, your mornings involve elevated blood pressure, cajoling, whining, and perhaps even yelling and tears – all make for arriving at your destination frazzled and unhappy. And in the end, the emotional drama does not get your kids to school or you to work any sooner.

There is hope for a more peaceful and efficient start to your day. With a little planning and the following suggestions, you can organize your schedule and create new routines so you can honestly say, “Good morning!”

Lunch packing made easy. If packing lunch boxes is slowing you down, shift lunch-packing duties to the evening. When storing leftovers after dinner, quickly determine what can be packed in tomorrow’s lunch. Leftover beans, steamed vegetables and grain or pasta salads hold up well and taste good cold. As you put food away, divide portions directly into single serving containers, one for each child. You’ll rely less on convenience items, waste less food and save a step in the packing process. Designate one shelf in the refrigerator for lunch items. In the morning, grab items from the shelf and pop them into lunch boxes.

An earlier bedtime can help. If your kids act sluggish in the morning and have trouble waking, put them to bed earlier. The mad rush for the bus stop is inevitable if your kids routinely sleep in. According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers need between eleven and thirteen hours of sleep, and school-age children ages six to twelve still require a whopping 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Chronic fatigue will make children groggy and uncooperative in the morning.  If your children are not getting enough shut-eye, begin inching their bedtime earlier by 15 minutes at a time.

Yale Medical Group sleep expert Meir Kryger, MD, has a message for parents: When adjusting your child’s summer-to-school sleep schedule, make it a rule to turn off cell phones and other electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Not doing so could disturb circadian sleep rhythms and open the door to poor school performance and health problems. The artificial light from playing video games, surfing the internet, or texting on phones before bed suppresses the release of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone.  Dr. Kryger has noted a progressive loss of sleep seen in children between grades 6 and 12. The problem is compounded when children go to sleep clutching their phones, continually waking up to respond to incoming texts.

Preplan what to wear. If getting dressed is a challenge, choose tomorrow’s clothing the night before. Morning brain-fog can be too thick for the decision-making process, so shift the choice to a time when your child is more alert. Lay clothes on a chair or shelf, or hang them on a special hanger. Some families pick a weekend day to choose outfits for the entire week.  Planning the next day’s outfit is a perfect time to check in about your child’s schedule. Is there PE tomorrow, or band practice? Use this time to set any special items by the door, ready to be picked up on the way out of the house.

All dressed before breakfast. If your children wander back to their rooms to get dressed and you find them still in their pajamas, straddling their latest Lego creation twenty minutes later, require them to get dressed before they come to breakfast. No lolling around in PJs.  Aim to have them completely dressed before they can eat. No one should have to run back upstairs for socks once you announce it is time to go. Limit other potential distractions by putting tempting projects away in the evening.

The essential backpack. If your kids can never find their homework and other papers, store anything that routinely travels between home and school in their backpack or book bag. Finished with that book from the school library? Toss it right back into the pack. Permission slip signed? Tuck it in the bag before it disappears from the kitchen counter. If your child doesn’t use a binder to keep track of paperwork, keep a pocket folder in your child’s pack to store homework pages and permission slips. Make the backpack the designated home for these items and no one will be scurrying to find them at the last minute.

Define “on time.” Finally, if you are still running late, redefine on time by planning a five- to ten-minute buffer into your schedule. Putting out the call of “all aboard” earlier will get you out of the house and at your destination with time to spare.  Just don’t let that buffer lull you into a false sense of security. If you have five more minutes, use them to get everyone in the car, not to throw another load of laundry in the wash. 

Heather Lee Leap
About Heather Lee Leap

Writer Heather Lee Leap confesses that she is guilty of occasionally yelling at her children in the mornings. But not on days following a good night's sleep.

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