Managing morning mayhem

Your clock radio goes off at 6:30am
and like a runner out of the starting block, you begin the morning rush. You
shower, dress, wake the kids, get them breakfast,
fix school lunches, attempt a cup of coffee, find missing homework, pack backpacks,
brush a couple bedheads, double-knot your 1st grader’s sneakers and dash out
the door. It’s downright alarming how much gets accomplished before the school
bell rings. If getting to 8 a.m. feels like an entire day’s work, some simple
A.M. strategies may be all that’s necessary to put the “good” back in
to your morning.

Anticipate Tomorrow Today
Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student,
says our success in the morning starts the night before. “No matter how
much money you have, you can’t buy more time. But with a little planning, you
can save it.”

Lunch: While cooking dinner (or cleaning it up), for example, get a jump on
the next day’s lunches. Have the kids clean out their lunch boxes and add water
bottles, napkins, no-spoil food (boxed raisins, crackers, baggies filled with
pretzels or nuts). “Whatever you can cross off your list tonight gains you
precious minutes in the morning,” says Goldberg.

Clothes: Other nighttime tasks should include readying backpacks and
selecting the next day’s Uniform. Psychologist and mom of three Debbie Glasser,
Ph.D., says it’s easy to make wardrobe selection fun. “Show your kids how
to lay clothing on the floor to look like them — shirt on top, pants on the
bottom, accessories to match and socks underneath.”

  Calendar: For children ages 7 and up,
checking the family calendar should become a nightly ritual. A large, centrally
located calendar is vital. Some families code entries by assigning each family
member a colour. “That way it’s easy for kids to distinguish their schedules
from everyone else’s and it gives them a sense that we’re all in this
together!” says Peel.

Rise to the Occasion
What’s the best way to get sleepyheads out of bed?
Children under 7 can’t developmentally understand the concept of time
— how to manage it comes even later — but even 1st graders can
respond to a bell, buzzer, or favorite song. Glasser doesn’t recommend alarm
clocks for all children. “Some kids feel stressed by a buzzer or
bell,” she warns.

Technologically savvy preteens may
enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to set their cell phone, computer, or
wristwatch to wake them. For super sleepyheads, be sure to put the clock,
watch, or iPod across the room. This tactic forces kids to get out of bed and
get moving.

Silence Stress — Yours and
Theirs
Two hours of lead time should be enough to get your
family through the morning and out the door on time. But as Glasser points out,
mom sets the tone for the day, so you may want to start yours early enough to
build in some solo time.

Her advice: “Take the time you
need to get your act together first! If the family rises at 7, wake up at 6.30am.
Enjoy a cup of coffee alone, meditate, pray, or shower before everyone else is
awake. The best gift you can give your child in the morning is the feeling of
being happy to start the day.”

Gentle reminders: Childhood development may be partially to blame for morning stress.
“Kids’ brains aren’t the same as ours: They’re still developing. They
can’t absorb much more than small bits of information at a time and may be
overwhelmed by the amount of information and directives you’re doling out in
the a.m.,” says Glasser.

Instead of issuing repeated
reminders, Glasser recommends using a visual prompt. List morning tasks
(bed-making, dressing, brushing teeth and hair, eating breakfast, etc.) on a
piece of brightly colored posterboard that you keep in the kitchen (or try our printable
checklist
). “Instead of barking orders and hurrying your child along,
tell him to check the chart so he knows what still needs to be done. It sure
beats nagging.”

Keep it quiet: Television can really add to morning chaos as well. Forbid kids’ programming
before school Monday through Thursday. Leaving the house on time can be
rewarded on Friday morning with 10 minutes of TV if (and only if) everyone is
completely ready to walk out the door for school.

Easy edibles: Don’t even think about making anything more complicated than cereal
on weekdays. For variety, serve hard boiled eggs (made in advance, of course)
and plain yogurt — instead of milk — with cereal. “If kids enjoy
pancakes and French toast, make extra on the weekend and freeze them. Then, pop
in toaster or microwave for a quick and easy before school breakfast,”
says Peel.

Groomed for success: If shoe-tying and ponytail-making are making you late everyday, set
aside 20 minutes to practice on Saturday. And try these handy hints: Wrap a
week’s worth of hair elastics around the end of your daughter’s brush to keep
them on hand-no more lengthy searches when it’s time for hair-styling.

FEATmorningmayhemSTORY

Weekday mornings need not be rushed if families follow a few simple guidelines.
PHOTO: FILE
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