Navigating The Morning Rush Hour
For parents, the morning rush isn’t just the commute to work, but the routine involved in getting the children out of bed, clothed, fed and ready for the day ahead. For most parents, this means getting ready for their own day at work too, whether that’s inside or outside the home. The result is often chaos, frayed tempers, tantrums and stress.
Not every morning will be plain sailing, but there’s plenty you can do to make the most stressful part of the day a lot easier for both you and the kids.
Review the agenda for the week
The pressures of homework, extracurricular activities and parental work commitments can cause both parents and children to feel stressed by the demands of modern family life. Unfortunately, this can lead to strained relationships, tantrums and arguments.
While, a generation ago, a child might have had one or maybe two extracurricular activities each week, nowadays it’s common to have three or four, not including play dates, birthday parties and other social activities. This means a lot of extra work and countless car journeys for already busy parents.
Rather than bringing joy, the pressure of organising all of these activities can remove much of the benefit. If you and your children are becoming worn out by extracurricular activities, then what’s really needed is more unstructured downtime at home. Cancel some events and let children take charge of their own activities at home. Encourage them to help with the preparation of meals, or other household tasks, or simply sit down and talk for a while – all of this can be much more valuable than expensive classes requiring preparation and travel.
Review your family routine weekly. Is there too much going on? Be prepared to turn down some commitments and to change others to fit into your schedule better.
Be aware of issues that cause stress
When you’re under pressure, it’s easy to miss underlying issues that are causing domestic problems and stress. Look for the tell-tale signs of stress and what causes it, in both your own and your children’s reactions. If you’re losing your temper regularly for little or no reason, that could mean you need to take a step back and find a better way of doing things in future.
Make sure you build some ‘me-time’ into your day to unwind. Simple things like going to bed earlier, or getting up earlier than the children to ensure you’re ready, or just taking a walk at lunchtime can all help you feel more relaxed and better able to cope with the morning rush.
Establish a routine
Most children’s tantrums are a result of being tired and stressed too, so establish a daily routine that gives them plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Say ‘no’ to activities where necessary and prioritise those that bring the most benefit, especially if these mean less pressure to perform. Keep a regular bedtime routine too, as most stress in the morning begins with too little sleep. Aim for an earlier bedtime and start your wind-down routine early also.
Plan for the next crisis
When you’re stressed out, you make poor decisions, so plan in advance how you’re going to deal with tantrums and problems in the morning. You will then have a strategy in place to successfully overcome these challenges when they happen. Pause to think and respond calmly to each child or situation. If things are getting out of hand, take time out to defuse the situation and come back to it when you and your children are calmer.
Remember: when things look their bleakest, a simple hug can make all the difference.
Reward helpful behaviour
To make mornings less stressful, involve your children. Explain to them that mornings are difficult for you, too, and you need their help to make it all happen. Create a reward chart with stars or points for completing simple tasks that make the mornings easier. These can lead to small, simple treats such as extra playtime, a favourite bedtime story, or a takeaway at the weekend.
Put these tips into action and, with a bit of luck, you’ll all be able to enjoy more good mornings than bad ones.
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