I don’t know about you, but mornings are the hardest part of my day. I feel like I’m racing the clock, constantly saying “hurry up, hurry up!” and willing the coffee maker to brew faster. Inevitably there always seems to be someone who can’t find their shoes. Even though we have a shoe basket in the mudroom and they know they’re supposed to put their shoes in there every time they come inside!
I am not a morning person naturally. I don’t wake up with a smile on my face, ready to tackle the day. I usually wake up with a groan and a snooze on the alarm. But over the years, I have learned a few tips that make helping kids get ready in the mornings much, much easier. The first three are actually things you do before the morning ever starts. Because like they say in sports and battle (and sometimes my mornings feel like a battle!), the best defense is a good offense.
- Get Ready the Night Before. Whatever school stuff needs to be signed, whatever special color or outfit has to be worn for spirit week, whatever show and tell item needs to be brought . . . find it and lay it out or put it in the backpack the night before. If you pack lunches, do it the night before and throw it in the fridge. I’ve even started making my kids do this with their shoes and socks because it had become such a stressor for us every morning. I make them find their shoes and socks and put them by the door at night so that I will never again have to hear, “Mo-om! I can’t find my shoes!” thirty seconds before we’re supposed to be out the door.
- Go to Bed Early Enough. I know it’s so hard to get home from sports or dance or piano lessons, get dinner on the table, and still have time for homework, baths, and family devotions without being up waaaayyyy too late, but a good night’s sleep is really one of the most important things you can give your kids. Sleep is when their bodies and their brains grow. Getting enough sleep not only helps kids be more awake and alert, it fights childhood obesity, it fights germs, infections, and illnesses, it helps prevent ADHD, it boosts their learning, and it helps their heart and stress levels (hint: kids with anxiety or ADHD need to sleep even more![i]) If you make sure your kids get in bed early enough, it’ll be a whole lot easier to wake them up in the morning.
- Make Breakfast Healthy, but SIMPLE. (And Prep the Night Before!). School mornings are not the time for an elaborate homemade breakfast. Save that for Saturdays. And bonus, that’ll make Saturday mornings even more special. Again, if you plan ahead and prep breakfast the night before, you will be moving through your morning routine like the Flash. There are so many great recipes online for simple, healthy breakfast options you can make on Sundays and then pop in the microwave on those busy school mornings. Or find a quick healthy cold option that works well—like Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola. The key is whatever takes the least amount of prep time so you can focus on getting kids ready instead of bringing out your inner Julia Child.
- Get Up First. Whether you need to get yourself ready for work or can stay in your PJs in the drop-off line, getting yourself up and ready before you wake the kids will make a world of difference. It doesn’t have to be hours before, but just long enough to get yourself ready, get a cup of coffee, and say a centering prayer for a joyful attitude before you go in to wake them will revolutionize the way you feel about the mornings. If you start the morning rushed and crazed, the kids will be rushed and crazed. If you take a few extra minutes to get yourself centered and calm, everything will go much more smoothly.
- Keep Wakeup Time Calm and Positive. Even if you are running late, resist the temptation to wake the kids up with a “get up, get up, we’re late!” The way you wake them can set the tone for the rest of their day. And if you are too rushed and frazzled, it will often backfire and the kids will go even slower. Or have a complete meltdown and make you late anyway. Each of your kids may be different in the way they wake up. Some might pop right up ready to go, others may need a few minutes before they roll out of bed. Some may want to be woken up with a kiss or a soft rub on their back, others with a song or soft music. Take the time to figure out what each kid needs and act accordingly. If one kid needs a few minutes, wake her up first, then go wake the others, then come back to her and help make sure she’s getting out of bed. Whatever you do, the key is to keep wakeups positive and calm. Really, those are good mantra words for the whole morning routine—keep your attitude and tone positive and calm.
- Make a Morning Routine Chart. The sooner we can help our kids be independent enough to get ready themselves, the better it will be for them in the long run. We aren’t raising kids, we’re raising adults. For younger kids, you can use pictures instead of words, but make a checklist for all the things they need to do each morning: shower, brush teeth, brush hair, get dressed (for some kids you might want to add change socks and underwear!), put dirty clothes in the hamper, eat breakfast, put on shoes, get backpack, etc. You could even have the checklist laminated and let them use a dry erase marker to actually check each item off as they go. Once they do this for a while, they won’t need the chart anymore.
- Set Multiple Alarms. Maybe this is just me, but I tend to lose track of time in the mornings. If I don’t pay attention, even if we’ve had a calm morning so far, all of the sudden I look at the clock and think, “oh, man! We were supposed to leave three minutes ago!” and then the “hurry up, hurry up, hurry up” starts all over again. So I have an alarm set for when I get up, then another one for when my son has to take his medicine, and another one as a five minute warning for when we need to leave.
- Pray. (Also Multiple Times). Just like I set multiple alarms, I pray multiple times in the morning. When I first get up, before I wake the kids, asking God to keep my words and tone calm and positive. Asking Him to help me not to be rushed or frazzled. Asking Him to fill me with His supernatural peace and joy in the mornings because I know I don’t come by that naturally. We pray over breakfast. I quietly whisper prayers to calm myself when I feel that frazzle or frustration coming on. Then we pray aloud together when we pull into the drop-off line at school. For the kids to have a good day, learn a lot, listen to their teachers, and look out for anyone who is sad or hurting and show them kindness. We may pray for a teacher whose child has been sick or a bully in their class to feel loved. No matter what kind of morning we had, whether I did everything right or lost my cool, that prayer re-centers them and gets their day started on the right foot.
When I actually follow all of these tips, I don’t find myself saying, “hurry up, hurry up, let’s go.” I don’t feel the stress and the rush. I have the time and the mindset to notice the sweet little things they say and do in the morning instead of having all my thoughts focused on racing the clock. It is possible to find a morning routine that works, it just takes a little bit of planning ahead and a whole lot of prayer.