Morning Routines

Morning routines: getting a family up and out in the morning takes planning and discipline, but the rewards are immediate

It may be a matter of genetics. It may be a matter of biorhythms. But whatever it is, it seems that families can be divided into two categories--owls and larks. And the more owls a family has, the more difficult it is for them to get up and out in the morning.

The wisest owls, realizing their basic natures, rely on routines to get them over the early morning hump and out the door on time.

The best morning routines, especially for owls, are preceded by evening routines. Mornings run smoothly if as many tasks as possible are front-loaded the previous evening:

- Shower and bathe the night before.

- Lay out clothing, including accessories.

- Check the weather report, and if inclement weather is predicted, lay out jackets, mittens, hats, boots, or umbrellas, too.

- Prepare lunches and store them in the refrigerator.

- Have backpacks ready to go in an area near the exit door.

- Keep a calendar on the refrigerator with children's schedules. Check it so that musical instruments can be placed near the door on Music days, school library books can be packed and ready for return, or sneakers and gym shorts can be laid out with school clothes.

- Set up the coffee maker, using a kitchen timer, so that it will be ready when the family awakens.

- Set table for breakfast, even pouring cereal into bowls if cereal is a favorite breakfast choice.

- Set the clock radio, allowing an extra ten minutes for unexpected events.

- Check the gas gauge when making the final trip the preceding day. Never leave home in the morning with an empty tank.

In the morning:

- Upon awakening, it's best for parents to get washed and dressed, including makeup, before the rest of the family awakens.

- As early as possible, children should be encouraged to be independent, getting up with their own alarm clocks, getting washed, dressed, and ready for school on their own. A parent's role should be, hopefully, to help kids coordinate bathroom schedules and fix breakfast while they're getting ready.

- If cereal's not on the menu, there are other quick, easy breakfast choices available. Pancakes and french toast can be pre-cooked in bulk, frozen individually and reheated in the microwave. Fruit smoothies, made with fruit, milk, and yogurt, are a quick, popular breakfast selection. Muffins, bagels and fresh fruit are preparation-free. When dealing with children, it's best to limit their choices to two or three items and give them a manageable experience in decision-making.

- Some families like to do a quick cleanup after breakfast, making beds and doing dishes. A clean house makes coming home more relaxed and peaceful.

- Before leaving the house, schedules should be checked on the kitchen calendar, and children should be reminded about afterschool activities or special school events.

- Don't forget to take lunches out of the refrigerator and into backpacks.

Despite established morning routines, children will sometimes dawdle and resist waking up. Setting a kitchen timer and letting them play "Beat the Clock" can help.

With persistent dawdlers, it's best to let natural consequences take place. If they don't wake up in time to eat breakfast, they miss breakfast. If they miss the school bus, they have to take a cab, paying fare with their allowances. Consequences, although they may seem harsh, help children to become responsible.

Every family is individual, and every morning routine should be customized to fit the family's needs. Factors such as family size, age of children, number of bathrooms available, and differing school and work schedules should all be taken into consideration when developing a routine. Ideally, a routine should be discussed and developed at a family meeting so that each member contributes his ideas and feels a sense of ownership and commitment to the plan.

Morning routines short-circuit the fight/flight mechanism, triggered by hurry and stress, allowing families to fly through a more peaceful, relaxed day.

© High Speed Ventures 2011