The Most Important Meal of the Day
If you're like many families, mornings are hectic. Sleepy parents, sleepy adults, breakfast to make, lunches to pack, school bags, work bags... so much to do and so little time. But breakfast doesn't have to be so crazy. When you take the time to prepare for the first meal of the day as mindfully as you think about other time with your children, you can bring a little more peace to the process and start your day off in a loving, supportive note.
If you're creating a new routine, be sure to communicate with your children about how and why. Ask for their thoughts on how your morning time can move more smoothly, and remind them that you want this to be a time when you can each help each other to start the day well. Asking for their involvement in finding solutions means they'll be more engaged in making those solutions stick.
First, prepare whatever you can the night before. Let this be part of your children's bedtime ritual: before you head to pajamas, pack up your book bags and backpacks. Make sure the shoes you'll need are placed together with your bags, and check the weather to see if you need a jacket or coat. Let your child select their clothes for the next day and hang or place them someplace reliable for the morning. Then move on to brushing teeth and bedtime stories. By putting out as much as you can the night before, you create a space for your children to take ownership over their own belongings (and a time when you can check to make sure it's all in place without the clock ticking behind you!)
Then, decide how much time you need to peacefully complete your morning tasks, and get up a little bit earlier. I don't know that I've met many folks who love when their alarms go off, but giving yourself even just ten minutes wiggle time means you're prepared for that unexpected phone call or unanticipated conflict that would otherwise throw your morning off track.
Once your children are awake, put your phone away. It's a chronic temptation, but if you have email to check first thing, do so before you get started with your day. Your children need your engagement and eye contact during the morning chaos.
Give directions, instead of reminders. Ask your sleepy children are muddling through the morning routines, offer them clear instructions. "When you have brushed your teeth, you can start getting dressed." Check in without nagging. The younger the child, the fewer tasks they should be asked to handle at once.
Engage your children in breakfast preparations and clean-up in the same way you work for dinner. Let them set the table. Let them pour milk. Instead of going wild in the kitchen while your sleepy children wait at the table, make sure each of you has a way to contribute to the meal together. Again, whatever food prep you can complete the night before, do so. Every member of your family deserves a role to play, a meaningful way in which their contribution matters.
Now, with your clothes ready, your breakfast taken care of and everything you need to get out of the door all in one place waiting for you, remember: this is the time you help to prepare yourself and your children for the rest of the day. Do you want it to be stressful or do you want it to be joyful? Even the most hectic times can be handled as though you're all on the same team. Keep your language positive. Tell your children what you need them to do to contribute rather than what they're not supposed to be doing. Remember to whisper feedback in your child's ear instead of yelling it across the room. Remember to make eye contact. Your children should start their day feeling loved and supported, even if it takes a few more minutes to do so.