Mornings can be a huge source of stress for many families. Parents are often in a hurry to get themselves off to work and can explode if the children are on a 'go-slow'. The prospect of being late for nursery or school adds to the stress, and you can often leave your child at the gate feeling like a nervous wreck, and you’re vowing that it shouldn't be the same tomorrow. All kinds of things can create panic in the morning: children refusing to get up or to get dressed, children spending ages playing and refusing to have breakfast, spillages, not being able to find things, children being glued to a television programme and tuning you out... The best way of preventing these issues is by planning, and having rules and routines. Remember, it takes far longer for the children to get ready and to leave the house than it does for an adult, so it is really worth factoring in much more time than you think you should need in order to alleviate the panic. If this is an area you'd like help with, do contact Camilla. She will work out a tailor-made plan with you to suit your family and situation.
Get the children to create a checklist of all the things they need to do the minute they get up. We assume too readily that children know what’s expected of them. I promise you that when you get them to write or draw it (with your help) it gives them that extra push. Also ask them: why is it important? For example, my children couldn’t understand why it was important to open their blinds. When I explained that sunlight freshened the room and the air from the window helped to blow dust mites away they were much more cooperative.
People have different preferences as to whether children get dressed before or after breakfast. I prefer before and I give them a napkin to keep their clothes clean. So before they come to the kitchen, the children need to be dressed and they must have done their jobs (ie, bed made, blinds open and pyjamas under the pillow). The checklist below should help you prepare for your day:
- Prepare the night before: gather the shoes, coats and school bags together to avoid the morning scramble.
- Lay the breakfast table the night before or before the children come to breakfast. It gives the impression that you mean business and stops you getting distracted searching in the cupboard for the cornflakes.
- It may be necessary to get yourself up and dressed before the children and earlier than you might wish to. Agonising as it is, it really does help the whole process go more smoothly and it is so much nicer to have a pleasant departure and journey to school if you are calmer.
- Keep hairbrushes and hairbands (where necessary) in a box in the kitchen. In the winter have a glove and hat basket too.
- Have a set of toothbrushes and toothpaste in the kitchen.
- Only allow television or other kind of screen after they have done absolutely everything that is required. We don't allow television in the morning as we found it too hard to get it switched off, and there is a lot of evidence to show that watching a screen before school impedes learning.
- Remember, the last push to get out of the door in reality takes 20 minutes. (We wish it was less, but if you aim for 20 minutes you might be pleasantly surprised.)
- It’s very helpful to have a ‘get ready to go’ checklist with words or pictures of all that needs to be done at this point: eat breakfast, brush teeth, go to the loo, put on coat and shoes. Again, getting children to draw this themselves and then to refer to it will make a big difference.
We are by no means a perfect morning family. I can remember many times over the years when I have shouted, rushed them, nagged them and wound up at the nursery or school feeling incredibly frustrated both with myself and with the children. However, if I keep reviewing my systems, freshening up the checklists or reward charts from time to time, getting up earlier and engaging the children more in the preparation, it really pays dividends. We sometimes have an incentive scheme running; by getting to school on time from Monday to Thursday with minimal fuss, they earn a stop for hot chocolate before school on Friday. It really does help. It also helps to establish the good habits and after a while you don't need to make the hot chocolate a weekly event.
Managing morning mayhem isn't easy so do contact Camilla. She will work out a tailor-made plan with you to suit your family and situation.
A mother’s story
Mornings were so awful for us at one point. The children would frequently end up in tears and we were so often late for school having forgotten a piece of homework or a reading book. My partner and I took this issue, amongst others, to discuss at our sessions with Camilla. We realised that we had simply been expecting too much of our two children and were not nearly organised enough ourselves. We first of all banned all screens and it was amazing how quickly the children adapted to that. We then made sure we invested far more time in preparation the night before and got the children to take responsibility for some of it too. I realised I needed to get up earlier and, hard as it is, it really does make me feel calmer. When it is time for the children to get ready I can spend some time chatting to them while they get dressed and this really helps make our relationship more positive. Breakfast is now so much calmer and more enjoyable. Some days we put music on and even have a bit of a dance. I can't tell you how much happier we all are from these changes. My daughter said to me the other day, 'Mummy, I really look forward to our mornings now as they are so much more fun!' I'm so pleased we went to Camilla to help work this out as we wouldn't have done it alone'
Alison Vanguard, mother of two