What’s your idea of “success” on a busy morning with a school aged child in the house? Helping them through every single step of getting ready? Checking in every few minutes to see if your child knows what to do next? Starting the day in a frenzied, stressed state and then trying to focus on the things you need to do to launch your own day on the right foot?
As a teacher (and a parent myself), I know all too well how tricky it can be establish a morning routine that supports feeling more ease and calm for you and your child. I’ve seen tired and stressed out kids (and parents) arrive at school drop off time on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be this way.
For many of us, a “successful” morning is one where we have time to get the things done that are important and essential to our day ahead. And to feel awesome doing it.
What can you do to make the morning rush more smooth and easy for you and your child?
Prerequisites for the Night Before
Before getting into the three simple steps to success on busy mornings, I want to describe the prerequisite basics that will help you achieve a more fluid and happy morning routine.
Prior to waking up in the morning, attending to these prerequisites will give you a super chance at being in the frame of mind necessary for success on your day ahead.
The first basic is ensuring that both you and your child have had enough sleep the night before. Experts generally agree that children need between 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night and adults need about 7-8 hours to feel well rested. You need to do the math and figure out what this will look like for you and your child, given your desired start time each morning.
The second important basic is going to bed with a relaxed mind and body. Whatever you and your child need to do to settle your mind and relax into a state that will help you sleep is key. There are various studies suggesting that using screens before bedtime is not a great idea. So, nix any texting, emailing, watching TV or other screen activity at least one hour before bedtime.
The third important prerequisite is eating and drinking just the right amount of food and beverage, at the right time in the hours before bedtime. This will vary for each person and it’s always a good idea to avoid eating or drinking anything that causes you discomfort or that stimulates you prior to bedtime. Getting healthy suggestions from your doctor and/or a nutritionist about what foods to eat (and when) to encourage a great sleep is a wise idea.
3 Steps to Success on Busy Mornings
Whether your school-aged child is in the full swing of an academic year or on a holiday break from school, there are three simple steps to get both you and your child started on the right foot on busy mornings.
Studies show that it’s easier to develop habits than to break them. Childhood is the perfect time to support your child in establishing the kinds of habits that will lead them to more ease and success in life.
It’s also a wonderful way for you to enjoy your parenting life more fully, knowing that your child is developing increasing levels of independence and confidence in day-to-day life skills through practicing this simple 3-step success strategy for busy mornings.
Step 1: Allot enough time for tasks
Determine what time you need to leave each morning and figure out how much time you and your child need to get ready for the day. Do the math to see if the time between your current wake up time and your departure time is sufficient and realistic to accomplish the tasks that need to get done.
If not, you’ll need to return to the prerequisites on optimal sleep timings to move in a direction of making your bedtime and wake up time work for your health and your morning success routine. Be sure to involve your child in planning the timing and morning task-setting. When children feel some ownership over a plan, they tend to have more success. Step two is critical in this process.
Step 2: Communicate expectations and establish agreements
The age of your child will determine what they can (and can’t) do safely and independently in the morning. Beginning at around age five or six, these are some things many children can do on their own with some initial direct teaching, collaborative practice and guidance. Here are some examples: read quietly for 10 minutes using a timer, write in a journal, brush teeth, wash face, comb/brush hair, get dressed, and fill up a water bottle.
If eliminating or reducing screen time is one of your intentions on busy mornings, establishing the expectation with your child that weekday mornings are for only doing the activities discussed with you is the first step in achieving this outcome. Free play with toys and games is a great substitute for television on busy mornings and a great way to prepare your child for a day of learning. Once you’ve had a chat with your child about the “whats” and “whys” about getting ready with a morning routine, you can make an agreement to use a checklist system to help your youngster to independently complete the tasks you’ve chosen together. This is a simple action step towards establishing habits for a smooth morning routine.
Step 3: Use a checklist everyday
Lists are easy and powerful for children. Starting as early as five or six years of age, checklists can be an effective way of nudging your child towards more independence in the morning. Depending on a child’s readiness for reading and making check marks on a page, you can adapt how you use a checklist to break down the morning preparation into small, realistic tasks. Write down all the tasks that you and your child agreed upon in step two on a checklist. Ensure it’s a simple and clear checklist that your child can independently use each day. If your child finishes their morning success checklist, it’s a great time to encourage the enjoyment of free play until departure time.
I like to include all the hygiene and self-care basics on my child’s list – drink a glass of water, get dressed, wash face, eat breakfast with the family, brush teeth, etc. I then include habits that I want my child to develop with increasing independence and skill. Some examples that I’ve used include read 10 minutes with a timer, write a diary entry, write down three things you appreciate in a joy journal, draw a picture, do some safe and easy stretches or water the plants. Be creative and devise our own list that is realistic, interesting and helpful to both you and your child.
Now Make Your Morning Success Checklist!
You can create your own checklist and work with your child to develop what essential tasks need to be on it for morning success. To start, all you need is to create a simple list template on your computer and print out enough copies of it to last for a month or so.
I suggest that you secure the sheets into a small folder or binder so your child has an organized and tidy checklist system to work with each morning. Again, involve your child in organizing the folder and perhaps even decorating it.
If you prefer, I’ve created a basic template for you to get started with right away (I know you’re busy!). I like to use one checklist page for an entire week for ease and simplicity. Simply print off as many of my template as you like and get started today. Click here to download a PDF template of my Morning Success Checklist.
Intentionally engaging your child with a predictable and consistent routine on typical, busy mornings helps you both experience a positive and productive start to the day. It creates some extra space for you to feel more calm and less stressed in the morning, knowing that you’re helping your child to develop healthy habits that are developmentally appropriate.
Be as creative as you like with this and do celebrate your successes with your child often. Practicing your unique morning success routines each day are the small steps that lead to more successful, happier and independent children in the long run.