The stressed out morning. We’ve all been there. Some of us find ourselves there more often than not.  It’s that time when you have more things to accomplish than time in which to do so.  Sometimes the stress comes from waking up late.  Sometimes it comes from trying to locate a missing favorite toy or homework.  Sometimes the stress just swoops in out of the blue and causes complete chaos.  However, the ultimate foe in keeping everyone upbeat and on time can be avoided.  By simplifying your mornings, you can help minimize the stress felt by everyone in the family and make back to school a breeze.  All you have to do is think.

Think Ahead

Every member of the family has a few necessities that go with them every day.  Adults have keys and wallets. Children have backpacks and homework.  Preschoolers and the younger set have diaper bags.  The easiest way to invite stress into your morning is to spend the entire time trying to locate something you really need.  The key is to plan ahead.  Use the 15 minutes before bed to gather up everyone’s essentials and place them near the front door.

  1. Gather homework and books and put them into backpacks. Restock diaper bags. Place outgoing mail and important papers in purses. Use a basket by the door for each family member to store everything they need.  This way, everyone gathers their items, knows where to find them, and they’re prepared to face the day.  No more frantic searching for Susie’s homework or Dad’s keys on the way out the door.
  2. Make lunches and snacks and store them in the refrigerator.  Label each family member’s lunch so there is no confusion. There are many fun, silly ways to personalize this step of your evening. Label brown paper bags with colorful designs or use a lunchbox for each family member labeled with self-adhesive labels.  The less confusion, the less the possibility of a meltdown.
  3. Keep an on-the-go breakfast prepared for the family if time runs short.  Keep it healthy, but filling.  Think granola or trail mix.  You can even package everyone’s favorite cereals into sandwich bags and keep milk boxes on hand, in the refrigerator, for such mornings.  Fresh fruit is also an easy grab to eat on the go. Think bananas and oranges. This reduces the stress of trying to figure out and fit in breakfast when you are already five minutes late.  It also removes the temptation to head for the local Burger Hut drive-thru. Keep your family on-time, on-budget and healthier.

Think Options  

When you are busy making all the decisions, things can get stressful.  Especially if your child rebels against your choices.  So go ahead and give up that freedom.  Let older kids choose their clothes for school.  Simplify the process for younger kids by offering them two or three choices and letting them make the final decision.  Allow your kids to express themselves through their choices, rather than through complaint.  If Jimmy wants to wear his rain boots to school with a plaid shirt and wind pants, let him.  It is not worth the argument that telling him ‘No’ will invoke.

And don’t just offer options when it comes to clothes. Do it whenever possible. Give your child the choice of apple juice or orange juice.  Do they want ham or turkey for lunch?  Do they want scrambled eggs or a muffin?  Let them choose between the blue umbrella or the green one.  Keep your family members in the loop on decisions that affect them.  Announce the options and let them choose but keep it simple.  Make some decisions for them, especially the important ones.  Make it clear that some things are simply not up for discussion.  They HAVE to wear shoes, for example.  When they know ahead of time that certain things are not up for discussion, they are less likely to argue, especially if you let them be the decision maker on other things.

Think Priority  

Sometimes things won’t go according to plan.  But that isn’t a reason to toss out your schedule completely.  Make a schedule for each member of the family and follow it whenever possible.  Prioritize what is important.  Make it real and make it fair. For kids, brushing teeth and getting dressed must come before checking e-mail or watching a favorite program.  For adults, getting breakfast made and getting everyone ready must come before checking Facebook or Twitter.  It is not about removing everything fun from your lives.  It is about making sure the important things get taken care of before the things that can wait.

Allow enough time in everyone’s schedule to include what they feel is important to their day. Just work it in last. This helps get sleepy kids and teenagers alike out of bed in the morning because the longer they wait, the less time they will have for things they like to do.  This applies to the adults in the family as well.  Do not expect your kids to get up, get showered, get dressed and get any last minute homework finished up when you are still sitting in your pajamas in front of the computer Tweeting about how tired you are.  Kids follow by example.  You have to prioritize yourself to be able to expect everyone else to understand priority.

Keep it fun.  See who can get dressed the fastest.  See who can be at the breakfast table first.  Make it a game and keep it light-hearted.  Since everyone completes their schedule, your stress level will stay low.  Offer rewards for consistency.  A small token or treat goes a long way in reinforcing good behavior.  If your family is ready on time every day for a week, go out for a weekend treat.  Or rent a movie with microwave popcorn.  Go to the park after school.  Make sure everyone is applauded for a job well-done.

Keep it Simple

Simplicity is the key here. Keep the schedule posted where everyone sees it, every day.  Go over the schedule with everyone and use pictures for younger kids.  The less time you spend shepherding everyone to their tasks, the less stressed you will be and the better you will be able to complete your own tasks.  Keep options open, but keep them simple.  De-stress your life by simply eliminating stressful opportunities.