10 Solutions for Chaotic Mornings

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In a recent survey I asked parents, “What’s the most chaotic, stressful time of day for you and your kids?” Over half (67%) said that mornings topped the list of their least peaceful times at home.

In addition to this post, with 10 possible solutions to your chaotic mornings, I also recorded a podcast on the topic with my friend Sara. You can watch the live video of our chat here:

10 Solutions for Chaotic Mornings

Today I’m sharing some possible solutions to your family’s morning chaos.

You know your family best, and perhaps from this list you can find one or two small changes that can make a difference in how your home feels in the morning. Given that most of us are heading out to school or jobs that have enough chaos and stress of their own, these tips might make your home and family life more peaceful, especially in those first moments of the day.

If you’re a naturally spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, you probably are excelling at being mindful, living in the moment, and enjoying your kids. That kind of presence and spontaneity can create a happy, relaxed home. And, as long as it’s working for you and your family, there’s no need to change anything. Read no further.

If you’re super organized and your mornings are yell-free and smooth, read no further.

But if you’re finding that your mornings have too much stress, chaos, and undesirable behaviors from your kids (or you), it may be worthwhile making some tweaks for everyone’s improved well-being.

Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Create a “Night Before” checklist and routine

What can be done the night before to take things out of the morning routine? If your kids are older, involve them in the brainstorming and come up with a list of all the things that can possibly be done the night before. Decide together (or you decide for younger kids), which things fall on the “Night Before” list. Here are some ideas:

◊ Make lunch
◊ 
Pack backpack or briefcase
◊ 
Lay out clean clothes (or wear to bed!)
◊ Pack up sports or other activity supplies. (I’ve found that it’s helpful to find out the night before that the soccer uniform still needs to be washed!)
◊ 
Review the day’s schedule and any driving (good to do at dinner).
◊ 
Prep a make-ahead breakfast (e.g., smoothies, overnight oats, muffins). This can be a fun activity for one of your kids if they like to cook.

2. Make Weekday breakfasts self-serve

When everyone makes their own breakfast, it not only saves some of your time, but it also builds an important responsibility skill in your kids. It’s a win-win. Save the big home-made breakfasts for leisurely weekend mornings and make weekday breakfasts self-serve. If you’re okay with it, allow kids to make their breakfast and take it “to go.” When my oldest daughter was four, I left a liquid measuring cup with milk on the bottom shelf of the fridge. She loved getting out her bowl, spoon, and cereal, and pouring her own milk. Even young kids can prep their own simple breakfast! Here are some ideas:

• Bagels
• Frozen pancakes/waffles
• Cereal
• Microwavable egg sandwiches or breakfast burritos (they have some healthy options now at places like Sprouts).
• Muffins
• Oatmeal
• Smoothies (Put all ingredients except ice cubes/frozen fruit in the night before, so that all that needs to be done is the blending!)

3. Create a morning “Must Do” list

Keep this list as short and simple as possible, moving any items possible to the “Night Before” checklist. Decide what’s most critical to you. Here are some items that probably need to stay on the morning list:

◊ Wake Up: Make sure kids have their own alarm clock (not phone) in their room.
◊ Brush teeth: Which sink is closest to the departure door? Leave a set of toothbrushes and toothpaste there!
◊ Get dressed: Kids who bathe at night can sleep in the clean t-shirt they’ll be wearing to school and save one step of their morning routine!
◊ Is making their bed in the morning important to you? Consider having a duvet cover and no top sheet so that making the bed is simple. Or, give up on the bed making (I have).
◊ Assign morning chores sparingly and focus on giving those chores to your “morning” people: pets, dishwasher, etc.

4. Create a peaceful environment (starting with yourself)

I have found that getting up at least 30 minutes before my kids is one key to a much more peaceful morning for myself. Consider going to bed earlier if you want to try starting your day with some quiet, peaceful time. Other tips to creating a more peaceful morning:

  • Play soothing music (relaxing piano playlists are available on Spotify and other music sources).
  • Light a good-smelling candle.
  • Have hot chocolate, tea, or coffee available for early risers.

5. Greet kids with a smile, hug, and a “good morning.”

It’s so easy to rush into the day without remembering to acknowledge each other and express our love. Everyone (even teenage boys who may be reluctant to join in) needs a hug from mom or dad in the morning! I tell my sons our morning and nighttime hugs are mandatory and are for my own well being.

6. Leave all phones, TVs, and computers off for the first 30 minutes of the day.

If kids are ready early (all checklist items completed), using those things can be a positive natural consequence of being ready early.

Do not, under any circumstances, check your email before you have gotten everyone (including yourself) ready. I made this mistake so many times and have learned that I most definitely WILL get sucked in and lose track of time if I start checking email before I (and everyone else in the family) is ready to go. Maybe you have more self control than I do, but I’ve found it just doesn’t ever work out for me to start doing even “one small thing” on my phone or computer while the morning routine is underway.

7. Set a departure time with a 10-15 minute “cushion.”

Giving yourself and your kids some extra time often is all that is needed to reduce stress. When you leave early (or on time!) there is much less likelihood that people will get anxious and start yelling at each other. It also allows for those inevitable events that sometimes slow you down, like extra traffic. In our family, we say 7:15 is our departure time. Generally, we actually get in the car by 7:20, but technically we could still make it to school on time if we departed at 7:30. Everyone having 7:15 stuck in our brains as departure time makes us plan our morning accordingly (what time we wake up, etc.)

8. Organize your departure items

One simple change you can make to create more peaceful mornings is having a consistent place where you each put all the items that need to leave with you in the morning. We keep all car keys in the drawer by our phone. For kids, their space doesn’t need to look like a Pottery Barn catalogue to work. Each kid can have a small laundry basket or box near the exit door where they put their backpack and sports/activity gear the night before. A note on the box can remind kids what they need to take to school!

9. Create positive morning connections

In addition to your warm daily greeting, make it a point to also have at least a moment or two of eye contact and conversation in the morning. These important, brief connection times reduce everyone’s stress and make family life more peaceful. Ask what they’re looking forward to or something fun they have planned for the day. Did they have any dreams they remember? Avoid asking about homework or assignments, as those are conversations that can raise the stress level. Whether in the car or before they head out the door to school, make it a point to have a moment of positive connection time with your kids.

10. Talk about the “why” behind your new morning routine(s)

If you decide to implement a change to your family’s morning in order to foster an atmosphere of peace and reduce chaos, have an open family discussion at dinner before starting the new practices. Get the kids involved with making decisions about what they can do the night before, what breakfasts they can make themselves, etc.

Life moves fast and as our kids get older, they have more stress and demands on their time. A huge gift we can give our kids (and ourselves) is a peaceful home that serves as a sanctuary from the chaotic world and a place where they learn to enjoy the little things.

Mornings are a great time to make changes to create a more peaceful, connected, happy family culture.

This is the second monthly post in my One Simple Thing family challenge. I’m sharing ideas for creating happier, more connected families. If you missed last month’s post, you can read about it here or watch a video here.

Join me on Facebook for videos and other posts related to the One Simple Thing challenge! If you don’t already subscribe to get my weekly emails, I’d love to have you join my community of parents and youth development professionals working together to raise a generation of thriving kids!

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