Now that my kid is pre-school age I am no longer shocked how the multitude of activities can stack up even for young children. She's already involved in pre-school, music classes, gymnastic classes, story time at the local library and of course SHARK TANK (pre-school martial arts) classes at Dragon Gym :-) It's a lot, but we're keen on making sure things aren't to hectic for her, or us. As parents, our stress can become their stress and that's counter productive to our goals.
We want the children to have a broad base and be well-rounded, to have education in and exposure to many different activities: physical, mental, and cultural. However, we have to remember that they end goal is their enjoyment and enrichment, not just ticking of boxes on "our" list of to-dos.
One of the more stressful and hectic times can be getting kids ready for school in the morning. The school day starts fairly early already, but for working parents it starts even sooner with early drop off and what not. Isn't it interesting how these kids will wake up so early until they have somewhere to be?
So, I decided to do some research and come up with a short list of strategies to make the morning, school day prep go easier...for everyone.
Strategy #1 - Don't plan on having time in the morning to prepare. Make all preparations, as possible, the night before: clothes are set out, bags are packed, lunch is made, gas tank is filled, shoes-belts-keys etc are all in their proper place.
Strategy #2 - Be "routinized". I'm a big advocate of following a routine and having daily rituals for both children and adults. In part, this is due to the concept of "decision fatigue". Decision fatigue results because every choice we have to make, every question we have to answer, no matter how small, takes up a bit of both our physical and mental energy.
Then, when we have to make a bigger decision or more important choice we just don't have any juice left to do so. Making too many decisions also takes our energy away from the things that matter most and adds stress to our daily lives.
We also know from years of training children in the martial arts that kids thrive on routine and clear expectations. Having a clear end point and a path to get there increases both their confidence and self-esteem along with giving them a framework for success later in life.
Create a morning schedule and routine for your self and see how much better you feel. It can be as simple as waking up at the same time every day, drinking the same thing first (16 ounces of water) and taking a quick walk in the driveway for a few minutes. Then come up with similar, but age-appropriate, routines for your kids.
Strategy #3 - Use technology to your advantage. We all have a cell phone or smart phone with us or close to us at almost all times these days. We can debate the virtue of that, but it has become a fact of life.
Use your phone as your alarm clock and set multiple alarms to make sure you wake up with plenty of time in the morning. You can also set alarms for when breakfast should be starting, or ending, and what time every body should be ready to go in the car.
Strategy #4 - Save the Adult Conversations for evening. You may feel compelled to share what you think is vital information with your partner during the morning preparation phase. However, what you are really doing is trying to get stuff off your mind / plate to alleviate your own stress.
If it involved the current day's events and planning, it should have been discussed the night before. If something is on your mind that requires deeper discussion, have that conversation at a later time when both you and your partner can offer your full attention when you're not rushing to get to work or school on time.
Strategy #5 - Plan Healthy, Easy to Make Breakfasts that come with binary choices. While it may not be practical, or palatable, to make breakfast the night before, plan ahead on what your breakfast will be in the morning to save time and reduce stress. For example, come up with 2-5 ways that you like eggs prepared and just go to that without need for thought.
Similarly, have 2 or 3 options for your kids. Instead of asking them what they want for breakfast, offer them a choice of breakfast A or breakfast B.
Additionally, what you eat matters. It may be counter to what you're used to hearing, but you should have a breakfast high in fat and protein and low, if not completely devoid of carbs. Think eggs, bacon, cheeses, avocado and veggies like spinach, kale or broccolli.
I hope you found this useful and you find your mornings more peaceful.