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Getting the Kids Out the Door Too Stressful? You Need a Morning Routine

A mom kneeling in front of her son, straightening his tie in a foyer.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

The demands and unpredictability of children—on top of getting dressed and ready yourself—can make mornings stressful. It might be impossible to eliminate that stress completely, but a morning routine can make it all a bit more manageable.

It’s quite a task to get everyone up, dressed, fed, and out the door on time with backpacks and lunches, all while it’s still dark outside. It’s even more challenging when you have babies or toddlers you have to help dress, who could also throw in an unexpected poo-explosion at any moment.

If your mornings have you pulling your hair out, these tips will hopefully help you catch your breath!

Make Sleep a Priority

It might seem strange to open a guide on morning routines with a section on sleep, but it’s tough to even start your day if you’re exhausted. And if everyone is grumpy and out of sorts in the morning, it’s probably because they aren’t getting enough sleep. When everyone gets proper sleep, they wake up feeling rested, alert, and ready for the day.

If you’re unsure about the recommended sleep times for your child, there are guides for babies and toddlers, as well as school-aged children. You can check this info and adjust your child’s bedtime accordingly. For example, if your child gets up at 6:30 a.m., and he needs 12 solid hours of sleep, his bedtime should be 6:30 p.m.

Most importantly, don’t skimp on sleep yourself! You’re the team leader, after all. Try to go to bed at least eight hours before your alarm is set to ring. If you need to streamline your evening routine to get more sleep, we’ve got you covered there, too.

Try to give yourself some buffer time in the morning because, with children, the unexpected is to be expected. So, if you all need to leave by 7:30 a.m., and it takes an hour to get everyone ready, make sure everyone is up by 6:00 a.m.

Prepare the Night Before

If you can, make preparation for the next day part of your children’s bedtime routine. Have them lay out what they want to wear (if they’re young, present just a few choices). Help them pack their backpacks and set out any extra school supplies. If possible, pack their lunches in advance, too.

If you still feel rushed in the morning, prep breakfast the night before. Try out some slow cooker breakfast meals, oatmeal in a jar, or protein muffins. Or you can just have the easy-to-prepare breakfast ingredients ready, such as yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, or cereal.

You can lead by example and set out your bag or briefcase, and pack your lunch the night before, too.

Wake Up Before Your Kids

Early mornings are hard for a lot of us—especially night owl parents, who use the quiet nighttime hours to get things done. However, if you always hit snooze or don’t get up until you hear your children, you miss the opportunity to get ready yourself before the chaos begins.

It’s hard to get up 30 minutes before your kids, but believe us, this is a game-changer. If you really struggle to do this, check out this article for some inspiration.

When you hear your alarm, force yourself to get out of bed immediately, drink a full glass of water, hop in the shower, slip into your outfit (which was set out the night before), and tank up on caffeine (or another glass of water). If you have extra time, you can load backpacks into the car, set out breakfast for everyone, and double-check that everything is ready to go.

This one tip will help you feel more prepared, calm, and less frazzled from juggling your kids’ needs with your own.

Designate a Spot for Everything

If you designate official places for necessities, it can be a huge time-saver. For example, you can add hooks by the door with name tags for everyone in the household, or a bookshelf with a cubby or box for each person.

Either way, this gives you a place to put everything the night before. And it saves you from hunting for lost keys or waiting for your child to find her backpack, while the clock is ticking.

Use Charts and Lists

Kids respond well to charts, especially if you make them together. Find some time to sit down and brainstorm ideas about how to make the morning routine as efficient as possible. Include every idea your children ramble off, and then help them arrange everything in a logical order. Offer suggestions, such as “I think we should make sure everyone is dressed, with everything packed and ready by the door, before we sit down for breakfast. Don’t you agree?”

When you involve your kids in the process of creating their morning routine, it helps them take ownership of it. And it makes them less likely rebel since it was their idea, too.

Teach Your Child Independence

It might seem easier (and faster) if you do everything for your child, like getting them dressed. However, it’s much better to teach them how to do these things on their own.

The sooner a child masters independent skills—like how to dress herself, put on her shoes, zip her backpack, etc.—the sooner she’ll do those things on her own.

This removes any power struggles or fighting to get your kid’s shoes on before you head out the door.

Stay Calm and In Control

A mom standing next to the kitchen table where her kids are eating breakfast, while dad washes dishes behind them.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

When you’re stressed and feeling rushed, it’s difficult to remain calm. But the more you can maintain control, the better you’ll be able to lead your kids through a productive morning.

If you get flustered, take some deep breaths. If you have time, try a quick meditation app before the kids wake up.

And try not to sweat the small stuff. If your child doesn’t make his bed, it doesn’t have to turn into a power struggle. The main goal is to get everyone where they need to be, on time. Beyond that, it’s okay to let a few things slide from time to time.

Eliminate Screen Time

There’s no room for screen time in the morning! It just distracts your kids from what they need to be doing and ruins your routine. Instead, try to play some motivating music. You can designate specific songs for certain activities, such as one that plays while everyone gets dressed, one for eating breakfast, and another that signifies it’s time to head for the door.

Save screen time for the end of the day, after everyone completes their chores and homework.

Stay Consistent

It takes a while to establish a good morning routine, but only a few days to destroy it. That’s why it’s so important to stick to it—no matter what. After a while, it’ll run like a well-oiled machine.

Try to incorporate some of your morning routine on weekends, as well. If you can, try to wake up around the same time you do on weekdays—otherwise, it can throw everyone off schedule.

You can do something different to make weekends special, such as have pancakes for breakfast or watch TV while you eat cereal.

Summer vacation and longer breaks can create some flexibility in the morning routine. However, during the few weeks that lead up to school, we suggest you implement the routine once again. Everyone should start going to bed earlier and waking up at the proper time to avoid the shock of having to do so when school starts.

Tackle Problem Areas

As you go through your morning routine, notice where things get tricky. Perhaps you have a child who takes forever to brush his teeth, or one who constantly loses her homework right before you head out the door.

Talk about these things with your kids at bedtime. Instead of rambling off suggestions, put the ball in their court. You might ask your child: “How can we make sure you have your homework ready on time?” Let her create her own solution. You can offer gentle guidance along the way, such as: “I like your idea of putting all your homework in your backpack the night before. Let’s try that.”

Make sure you stay focused on this area and help them implement their solutions. Try new approaches until you find one that works.

Have Fun

Above all else, try to make mornings fun. It can be super hard when you’re under the gun to get out the door on time. Still, a smile or a quick tickle can go a long way. The more you can inject laughter into your morning routine, the more relaxed everyone will be.

All these tips might sound like a lot of work. However, the sooner you incorporate them into your life, the easier your mornings will become. Above all, just stay consistent and soon it’ll be like second nature. And don’t forget to add a sprinkle of laughter!

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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