Ahh, the mornings. A time of peace and serenity, for sipping a cup of coffee while catching up on the morning news. Or perhaps you use the time to bake fresh healthy cookies for the family’s midday snack. However, if your mornings are better described as rush hour compounded by nagging warnings, here are a few handy steps to create a stress free routine.
1. Morning routines start, ironically, at night. When the children come home from school, go through their backpacks and prepare whatever needs to be brought in for the next day. The kids should place their jackets, backpacks and shoes in the same spot every day. This area should be accessible to them, with hooks, a shelf or a bench. If you come home after your children, check their backpacks then. Make sure whoever is with them until you come home abides by a set schedule of homework, dinner and baths, so that you can put your children to sleep.
Mothers who pick up their children at the babysitter’s towards evening might face a special challenge. If it’s at all possible, do everything you can to avoid that extra stress. What works for my family – on the days I work late, I employ two babysitters, one to watch my son during the day at her home and the second to pick up my daughter from school and bring them both home. The cost of the two babysitters is only slightly more expensive then one, but well worth it in terms of the anxiety it saves.
If the situation cannot be avoided, then upon arriving home, make sure the children abide by a healthy sleeping schedule. Growing children need between 11 and 12 hours of sleep – every night. That’s why letting them stay up late so they can spend time with Mommy or Tatty is debilitating. A better idea, according to Dina Friedman, from the illuminating parenting course Chan0ch Lnaar, is staggering bedtimes so that each child can spend 10 minutes alone with Mommy or Daddy before bed – doing something enjoyable and going over their day. In physiological terms, this qualifies as sufficient quality time.
2. Prepare mitzvah notes, tzedakah, snacks and the like while cleaning up after dinner. Children over the age of four can prepare their own snacks and lunches.
3. Get enough sleep. I cannot stress how vital adequate sleep is. Without proper sleep hygiene, nobody can, or could possible be expected to, function. Give yourself a bedtime, just as you do for the kids, and keep to it within the half hour. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try these tips:
Minimize screen time such as computer or TV an hour before bedtime.
Use your bed only as a place for sleeping, not reading or chatting on the phone.
Take a hot shower or bath close to bedtime.
Don’t toss and turn in bed. After 15 minutes, get out of bed and try again in another 15 minutes.
If you have a newborn, make up interrupted sleep with daytime naps. This is a priority that takes precedence over any amount of dishes stacked in the sink. This point is so crucial that it bears repeating: without adequate amount of sleep, you cannot function the next day. So get the sleep you need!
4. Set out a complete outfit, including shoes, underwear, hair accessories, yarmulkahs, tzizit etc. for everyone the night before. I like to set out clothes for the week every Sunday night, but if you don’t have the space to lay out that much clothes, the night before is sufficient. We usually do it right before bedtime, so my daughter can add her input. She then just pulls out the outfit she wants to wear the next morning and gets dressed without needing any further prodding.
6. Wake up half an hour before the kids so that you can get yourself together before everyone else wakes up. With proper sleep habits, this should be a cinch.
7. Wake up your children about an hour before the bus, car pool etc. All children over the age of four should be dressed and washed, by themselves, before coming into the kitchen for breakfast. Make it easy for them by laying out toothbrushes, toothpaste and hairbrushes in easy reach, and keep a stool in the bathroom for easy access to the sink. I’m sure many mothers will scoff at the notion of their kids being so well trained, but I guarantee you, if no breakfast is served until everyone is dressed, it will be just a couple of mornings of stubbornness before this efficient habit is established.
8. Avoid distractions such as reading books, coloring, or playing with toys, by using the when/then method. When they are dressed, then they can play for a specified amount of time. Show little kids on a clock how much time they have to play.