Visions of becoming the “perfect” family are common for most young parents. The first few months of parenthood are euphoric, and a parent’s greatest frustration stems from a lack of sleep. Time passes so quickly and before you know it, your children are in grammar school with a social calendar busier than yours. You and your partner are completely exhausted; you barely have enough energy to have a conversation, let alone be intimate.
It all begins in the morning when you jump out of bed, after hitting the snooze button for the second time, of course. You frantically run over to each child and holler, “Get up, you’re going to be late for school.” You slip into yesterday’s clothes then rush into the kitchen. While you assemble your row of lunches, you’re shouting, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth and comb your hair.” In response, you hear, “I can’t find my shoes,” followed by, “Mom, my teacher wants to speak to you this afternoon.”
I refer to this experience as “morning madness” and it seems as though it has taken over most young families in America. This madness can heighten after school as well, and continue throughout the evening. If you are experiencing the same madness and are looking for a solution, then read on.
Develop a Routine
The best way to eliminate “morning madness” is to develop a workable routine. The routine should focus on the most hectic times of the day, which all contribute to this time of madness. They are most commonly bedtime, afterschool time and breakfast time. Being consistent with your routine is essential for your success— children tend to work better in an environment that provides structure. Eventually, this routine will become automatic for both you and your children.
After your routine is established, your children will know what is expected of them and the family will begin to function as a team. Having the ability to work as a family unit is empowering. After a while, parents find that they have more quiet time for each other and “family time” becomes less stressful. Soon the madness will fade.
The Starting Point
The best way to develop a daily routine is to start with the bedtime and work your way backward. One hour before bedtime, have your children prepare their clothes for the next day. This includes underwear, gym clothes, shoes, jackets and coats, and book bag.
Now that they are ready for a bath, make sure they have enough time to bathe and relax. The warm water will relax them and help make the transition to bedtime easier. Your children are now ready to be tucked into bed for the night. As usual, read a bedtime story or enjoy your traditional bedtime customs. Give your children hugs and kisses; then it’s lights out.
Prepare for the Next Morning
Once the children are in bed, as a couple, you and your partner should prepare the breakfast table for the next morning. This includes getting the coffeepot ready for your first cup of the day. Whenever possible, prepare their lunches for the next day as well. Today, most lunch foods and snacks are pre-packaged, making the process more convenient, but in the morning add some nutrients by adding a piece of fruit.
It’s a great idea to wake up 30 minutes before your children do. This will allow you to take your shower and get dressed in peace. Once dressed you can go into the kitchen and indulge in each other’s company, while enjoying a savory cup of coffee.
When it’s wake-up time for the children, all they need to do is to brush their teeth, comb their hair and get dressed. After they have enjoyed a healthy breakfast, they are ready for school. This routine gives everyone the opportunity to have a pleasant start to his day and will eliminate what causes the “morning madness.”
For dismissal time, prepare drinks and healthy snacks for your children to enjoy on the ride home from school. Keep in mind that at this time of day— like most adults— children are tired. They have spent a full day meeting the demands of their teacher. In addition, they are dealing with their anxieties about fitting in with their peers. Once children break free from the structure of school, it’s hard for them to reengage. Therefore, homework should be completed before they participate in afterschool activities.
Have a family meeting, and together you and your children can determine how much time they need to complete their homework assignments and study. As a family, choose which afterschool activities can realistically fit into their schedule. Children should be able to complete their homework assignments and study for upcoming tests in a quiet and calm environment. Having completed their homework and being prepared for the next day will help eliminate “morning madness.”
A huge culprit of “morning madness” comes from schedule overloads. If you or your child have too many obligations and are constantly feeling stressed from daily overloads, “morning madness” is sure to follow.
There are several signs that can help you to determine if your child is overloaded with afterschool activities. Watch if your child is rushing through homework, trying to squeeze in time for homework in between activities or even finishing homework and eating breakfast at the same time.
When choosing afterschool activities, it is very important that parents be realistic of what they expect from themselves as well. Parents can’t be everywhere at the same time. When conflicts in scheduling occur, try car-pooling. If this can’t be arranged, you may have to say no. When you avoid these possible overloads, you will eliminate the hectic experience of “morning madness.”
Mornings are always a bit hectic— especially for families with young children. Implementing these tips will keep you in control of your day. So, replace that sense of urgency with a feeling of calm— after all, family life is the most valuable thing to have.