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Are the hectic mornings overwhelming you and making you feel stressed throughout the day? Try these meticulous planning and time management strategies to give you a head start for the day and to boost your energy levels
After downing two cups of hot coffee, Shruti feels better equipped to deal with Monday morning madness. Getting up was the first hurdle—she is not a morning person. Why does the alarm clock sound so harsh? Then, there’s breakfast to be made. Aditya (8) and Ananya (4) are to be woken up, bathed and dressed for school and preschool, respectively. Waking them up is a task she dreads. They ignore her, or pretend to be sick. She starts yelling and pulling off the bed covers in panic. The school bus comes at 7:30 a.m. and Ananya has to be dropped off at 8. It’s already 6:45 a.m.!
Rohit, her husband, helps with getting them ready and packing their lunch boxes. But where are Aditya’s socks? Why is he taking so long in the bathroom? Ananya is wailing at the breakfast table—she doesn’t like the oatmeal that has been prepared. Also, she wants to stay home today. An SOS is sent to the children’s nanny to come early. Meanwhile, Aditya announces he has a math test he forgot about. As Shruti is ready to tear her hair out, she smells something burning on the stove. After rescuing the pasta and putting it in the lunch boxes, she rushes Aditya through some basic math concepts before they race down the stairs with his backpack half open. They just manage to catch the bus.
Shruti and Rohit rush to get ready for work while they wait anxiously for the nanny to arrive. The same scene is replayed in their house on most weekdays, not just on Mondays.
Does it sound like a typical morning at your home too?
Weekday mornings can be stressful for both parents and children. The reason: There’s a lot to get done, and time is short! Since this is an expected scenario, it shouldn’t be too difficult to manage your morning routine.
A 2018 survey of 2,000 working parents, conducted by Kellogg’s, revealed that on average they finish 43 tasks, including chores and getting their children ready for school, before they make it to the office. Most parents leap out of bed by 6 a.m. and rush headlong into their chores, fighting against time to get it all done. Many parents who participated in the survey said they often felt they had gone through an entire day by 11 a.m.! But that’s not all. This mad rush has a ripple effect on you and your family.
Find peace in the morning rush and you will have a good day. - Mike Dolan, American actor
(Quality of Life Experiments is a US-based social enterprise that helps improve the quality of life for people.)
If your interaction with your child as you wave her off to school is a happy one, isn't the day more likely to go well for both of you? For that to happen, you need to cope well with the morning rush.
How do parents deal with the morning rush in a calm and wholesome manner? Managing time and tasks efficiently is the key.
Ensure sufficient sleep: Mornings are bound to be hard if children wake up bleary-eyed, tired, slow-footed and cranky. Actually, this applies to parents as well. According to a poll conducted by the US-based National Sleep Foundation in 2006, 45% of American adolescents get an insufficient amount of sleep on school nights (less than 8 hours), and so these adolescents are “much more likely to experience consequences the following day, such as feeling too tired or sleepy, being cranky or irritable, and falling asleep in school.”
So, get children to bed early, especially on school nights.
Make a rule: Stop phone calls, surfing, video games and TV one hour before bedtime. Both parents and children should have a regular sleep pattern.
Start preparing the day before: A lot can be done the night or evening before. “Make your child a part of the planning for the next day and, actually, for the entire week,” advises Waldmann, who is based in Gurugram, Haryana.
Get up when the alarm goes off: This may be tough, especially if you’re not a morning person. But getting up as soon as the alarm buzzes is a must for a stress-free morning. Wake up before the children so that you have time for a quiet cup of coffee and a quick scan of the newspaper. This quiet time will also get you mentally prepared for the challenges ahead. If possible, get ready for the day before you wake the children up. If your children need half an hour to get themselves out of bed, plan to start waking them half an hour earlier. You can even get your 6-year-old to pick an alarm clock of her choice (a digital one would be the best).
Have a set morning routine: Keep your first waking hour as consistent as possible. Not having to make decisions about what to do in the morning saves a lot of time and mental energy. Instead of jumping out of bed, take your time. Open the curtains and enjoy the sunlight. This will get you alert. You can play music either for relaxation or to keep you upbeat as you go about your morning activities.
Ideally, you should have time in the morning for some relaxed stretches or meditation. Try to fit in some form of exercise, as this will enhance your ability to deal with stressors. Music and exercise in the midst of a hectic morning? Unrealistic, you may think. But it’s possible to incorporate these into your routine with some planning.
Create rituals: “Plan for some time with your child to talk and connect, for instance, chat while having breakfast together. Creating rituals is a powerful way to create a deep connection,” suggests Waldmann. Some families have a ritual of reading books or listening to music over breakfast.
Start the day on a positive note: A quick hug or a friendly “Good morning!” will set the tone for the morning and make your children more cooperative.
Dr Laura Markham, a US-based clinical psychologist, talks about the morning routine in her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. According to her, you should get “five minutes of relaxed snuggle time with each child as they wake up.”
“Kids find transitions hard and the morning is full of transitions. So if getting your child out of bed is a challenge, end your morning snuggle by holding hands as you go downstairs together, and make that a meaningful connection time for your child, during which you both come up with something you’re grateful for, or something you’re looking forward to today. (Naturally, yours will relate to your child.),” she writes.
Encourage independence: If your child can dress herself, allow her to do it even if it takes longer. Factor this extra time into your schedule. Give your children sufficient time to complete tasks instead of nagging them. Also, get children to help you. If they are old enough, ask them to lay the breakfast table, fill their water bottles and make sandwiches for their snack time. Keep them busy. This will keep them out of mischief and make them feel responsible. Dr Markham suggests in her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, “Empower your child by taking photos of him doing his morning tasks and making a chart with him that you can point to if he gets derailed.”
Break the morning routine into steps: Time each task and discuss with your children beforehand the overall morning plan. Many children have no sense of urgency, and you need to tell them they have to finish breakfast in 15 minutes, they have another 15 minutes to get dressed, and so on. If necessary, use a stopwatch or timer. You may need to schedule bathroom time, as this can be a bottleneck if there are more family members than the number of bathrooms.
Turn media off to avoid distractions: Do not put on the TV in the morning, even to see the news. And avoiding using it to babysit children while you get the chores done. It’s better to hand them a book or put on music of their choice. An alternative is to use media as an incentive. Tell your children that if they are ready well on time, they can watch TV for 10 minutes before they leave for school. You will notice that this gets them moving faster!
Also, resist the temptation to check your phone, email or social media while getting your children through the morning rush.
Keep your temper in check: Avoid snapping and shouting at your children. It will not work to hurry them. In fact, they may react with a tantrum or a bout of crying, which will slow things down further. Talk softly and kindly. Do not react if your child is rude—he might just be cranky in the mornings. Pick your battles. If your 9-year-old wants to wear his favorite cap to school, allow him to do so even though it’s a bit dirty. It’s not a big deal!
Play it out: Sometime during the weekend, get your child to act out the morning routine, using a mom-and-baby toy. Have the little one resist, whine, collapse. Have the mom “lose it.” Now, hand your child the “mom” toy and play out the scenario again with you taking the child’s role. Make it funny so that both of you can laugh and blow off steam. For example, you could include scenarios in which the kid ends up reaching school in her nightwear. Not only will you learn something about how to make things work better, but you will also have a more cooperative child on Monday!
Take care of your own needs: A 2012 poll conducted on behalf of Breakfast Cereals Canada found that not taking enough time to take care of their own needs increases the stress factor for many parents. Moms and dads who reported spending less time getting themselves ready and more time focused on the family were more likely to call mornings the most stressful time of day.
The poll also revealed some gender gaps. Nearly twice as many moms (64%) than dads (36%) said they spent more time focused on getting everyone else ready in the morning than themselves.
In a nutshell
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