Ah, mornings. Sometimes they go smoothly and my day is lovely. Other times, I feel like I’m behind before I’ve even begun. If your house feels like a staging zone for a major event as you try to get everyone ready and out the door each day, these ideas for changing your family’s routine will leave you smiling.
Get a good night’s sleep. I like to say that a good day starts with a good night’s sleep. Then my kids roll their eyes at me. But really, if you get enough sleep, you’re more likely to wake up refreshed with enough energy to get going. Encourage your children to get to bed on time as well so you’re not wasting time dragging them out of bed. Sleep is what helps our bodies refresh, regenerate and stave off illness. Learn how much sleep you need each night (I do best with around eight hours) and then strive to get it as often as you can.
Choose a simple, healthful breakfast. After years of trying to make nice, hot breakfasts for my family each morning, I realized I resented both the time and the mess. Now we choose quick breakfasts for mornings when we’re on the go, and we use weekend mornings or dinners for more involved meals like crepes and waffles.
My teenage daughter is out the door before 7 a.m. each day. Once a week, I make a batch of muffins, healthy breakfast cookies or homemade granola bars she can grab on the go. I also make several servings of steel cut oats and refrigerate them. Oatmeal can be heated up quickly and topped with nuts, berries, bananas and a drizzle of honey. Cereal is the quintessential easy breakfast, but watch the sugar content. Many cereals marketed toward kids have several teaspoons of sugar per serving.
Don’t leave too much for the morning. I know I’m not the only one who’s tired at the end of the day. It’s tempting to leave a kitchen full of dishes and go to bed. When you take the time to clean up main household areas the night before, including the kitchen, you’ll find you’re ahead of the game when morning comes. Other tasks done best at night might include packing backpacks, making lunches and bathing.
Skip the snooze button. I have an aversion to the snooze button. It probably comes from having a college roommate who used it liberally. Now I’ve learned to live without. When you don’t use snooze, you can sleep well until it’s time to wake up, not toss and turn for fitful minutes as you wait for the alarm to go off again. Also, if you give yourself a consistent wake up time, you might find your body naturally adjusts and you can wake up by yourself. The days of being jolted awake repeatedly are over.
Take a deep breath. A few mornings a week, I like to wake up early and give myself time to read scriptures, meditate, pray or just think. When I do this, I have a much better day. If you practice yoga, try a few sun salutations or stretches that invigorate the body and mind. Taking a few minutes to be mindful of what I want to accomplish during the day and how I want to treat the people I’ll interact with helps me focus on the day ahead.
Recruit the kids. Parents shouldn’t be the only ones prepping for morning success. Teach your children to finish homework, make lunches, pack backpacks and help prep their own breakfasts. Kids can help pick up items from common areas, find their sports equipment and library books and learn personal grooming habits like brushing teeth and combing hair. Of course, parents often need to supervise and aid in these tasks, but once a routine is established, it’s easy to follow.
Be efficient. I accomplish a lot before 8 a.m. While kids are eating breakfast, I try to unload dishes or make beds. There are several tasks I need to complete to get everyone out the door on time, so I try to do them in the same order each day. Once you figure out what needs to be done, find a rhythm to the tasks and be efficient as you complete them. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised when everyone’s off to school and I feel ahead of my to-do list.
Check the weather. There’s been more than one time when I’ve realized too late the weather is cold and I don’t know where the gloves are, or it’s raining and no one’s rain boots fit, or it’s going to be 80 degrees and the shorts are all packed away.
My husband, bless his heart, asks me every morning what the weather is going to be like, even though he has access to the same smartphone app on his phone that I do. Knowing the weather helps you choose appropriate clothing for the day at hand. Take a minute and see what Mother Nature is bringing your way each day.
Not every morning is going to be as smooth as if Mary Poppins were visiting, but establishing a routine and being disciplined in a few ways will save you time and make your mornings together as a family happier. Put these tips to work in your household and wake up on the right side of the bed every day.
(Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.)