Parenting Guru: Making Mornings Stress-free

There was a time when school-day mornings at my house were as bad as almost anywhere else. They were full of hurrying, stress, anxiety, clutter, and, sometimes, yelling. In the last several months, I've made a point to make mornings a lot easier on my family, and I'd go so far as to say that I actually enjoy getting up in the morning with my daughter. Here are some of the steps I've taken to make mornings a lot easier on everyone. Here are some simple steps that will make the early morning hustle-and-bustle easier for any family:

1. Prepare the night before. In my family, we lay out clothes for the next morning the night before. We also make sure that backpacks and homework are already completely ready to go and placed somewhere easy to find, next to the door. This minimizes the chaos of trying to find school supplies or clothes seconds before the bus arrives.

2. Simplify breakfast. All public schools and many private schools offer breakfast in the morning. Even if it means having to get up earlier, it's a good idea to take advantage of this convenience! My kid eats breakfast at school every week day. For grown-ups, replacing a complex breakfast with a ready-made smoothie or meal bar is a great idea on busy mornings when you don't have much time, so stock up on these for emergencies-- or even for daily use.

3. Set the alarm earlier than you need. Go to bed fifteen minutes earlier and wake up fifteen minutes earlier. It won't change anything at all about how much sleep you get or how you live your life, but it will make all the difference in the world when it comes to how smoothly your mornings go. That fifteen minutes is enough time to find a missing pair of shoes, make a pot of coffee, soothe a cranky kid, check your email, read the news… anything goes. Add that 15 minutes. You'll be glad you did.

4. Start the day with a smile. I can't stress enough how much of a difference this makes. Your day is affected by the first thoughts and feelings you have when you get up. Don't make those minutes full of cursing and yelling and running. When I wake up, I first pet my three animals (who are always at the foot of the bed) and then I wake my daughter up by kneeling next to her and kissing her cheeks until she wakes up, almost always smiling. It makes our day so much better than if I hit my alarm and then went on to yell, "Get out of bed! Hurry!" into her room. Why let morning grumpiness ruin everyone's day?

I'll be honest and admit that I'm not a morning person and never will be, but I am glad that I've figured out ways to get my family up and moving at dawn without having to face all the stress and hurry that used to be part of daily life. A couple of very simple measures can make mornings easier, less stressful, and more pleasant for everybody.