One aspect of blogging that I’ve enjoyed so far has been sometimes discussing deep and heavy topics like death and dying, the passing down of cultural traditions, and the roles of being a father in the 21st Century. Statistically, these posts have been shown to be popular, but the pragmatic and task-oriented posts about preparing for a new baby and what to get dads for Father’s Day have also elicited nice responses.
Much like blogging, as a parent, sometimes you are dealing with difficult issues that have serious implications and other times you are simply trying to figure out how to get Junior to stop picking his nose in public.
Zone Defense Blog has been a approached by Northeast Ohio Parent magazine to work in conjunction with them and be a local online presence on a new blogger section of their website. Potential opportunities to have cross exposure into the print side of the magazine and other mediums are also being explored. The blogger section of the website is set to go live in August of 2014. This blog hopes to create new works prompted by them and also continue exploring topics that are specifically organic to the author. This is the first blog post prompted by Northeast Ohio Parent magazine to be used by them on the new blogger community section of their website.
Morning Routine Tips To Alleviate Stress
Stress-free mornings are an oxymoron in most households and ours is no exception. The one thing our kids hate to do is rush to complete tasks. What fun is that?
In the morning, prior to going off to pre-school, their main activities involve, you guessed it… rushing to complete tasks. It can be hectic and stressful. It can be the worst part of your day. Parental scars can be created that massive amounts of caffeine can’t cure.
Luckily for my wife and I, our work schedules allow us to both chip in during the morning rush to get our kids ready for the day together. This cannot be under-valued. Playing zone defense and having both parents completing delegated tasks during mornings can make for a less stressful environment.
Personally, I am not a morning person so my wife contributes far more during the morning rush than I do during weekdays. I try to pay her back by waking up with the kids during many weekend mornings so that she can catch up on sleep. This works for us, but the set-up may be completely opposite in your family and that’s fine.
Below is a list of tips that can help alleviate stress during the morning rush. Feel free to bend and mold these hints to fit the current age, development stage and morning requirements to your own personal situation.
▪ Stress free mornings begin the night before – Establish a weeknight bedtime for your children and typically be firm with it. For us, we shoot to have our 5 year olds dressed, hygienically clean and physically in their beds by 8:30 p.m. Once they are in bed, they then can have us read them books or they can practice reading on their own for the next 30 to 45 minutes. This reading period serves as a cool down for the day and helps set the kids in a calming mindset before bed. It also serves a dual purpose by setting aside specific time for reading each day. The kids like reading at this time, because it allows them the opportunity to stay up later like bigger kids and adults. There are special occasions and many weekend nights that we allow later bedtimes, but during the week, having this general rule can establish expectations in both the child and with the parent.
▪ Make an achievable morning task list – Lists are boring, monotonous and mundane, but they help. The list can be written down or just small enough in content that it can be memorized. There are less than five tasks our kids know they have to complete every morning before we will listen to requests about food, drink or fun in the morning hours. Most of these list items are hygiene related. For younger infants and toddlers, the parents completing these tasks for their children (for example: brushing teeth and changing clothes) consistently (with or without a written list) will similarly establish trust and expectation with the child.
▪ Reinforce and recognize good listening – This is a common sense item, but it cannot be forgotten. Show your child that you notice that they are listening and that they are making an effort to make the morning run smoothly. A comment like, “Wow those are some great circles you are making with your teeth brushing” or “I really like that outfit you picked out for school” can help show the kids you are watching and you care about them and their health, hygiene and fitness. If they are not doing a good job, point out where they can improve. Show your children you care about them and their well-being and they typically will try harder to impress you.
▪ Allow time to “wake up the mind” – At the end of each morning routine, before entering the rigors of the real world of daycare, work or school, we all deserve some time (15 to 45 minutes) to sit and relax. Adults sip coffee, look at the weather, read the news in newpapers or on a phone or tablet. Children deserve a similar time period to compose themselves and wake up their minds. Be it word puzzles, cartoons on television or a quick game on the iPad, allow some time after tasks are completed and before the real day starts to wake up the mind.
▪ Recognize and reward good behavior – As always, a carrot is a motivating factor. Kids should not be expected to prepare themselves every morning of every day without a hitch or a whiney moment. If you are able to get several consecutive good days in the books during the morning routine, reward and reinforce those good strings of days. Our kids can earn an extra half hour to stay up at bedtime, a weekend treat like a trip to the movie theater or ice cream, or a trip to the community pool or playground with a parent of their choosing after school.
Some mornings are better than others. Don’t get discouraged. They won’t all be bad. Additionally, the older the child gets, the clearer the awareness of their responsibilities come into focus. Here is a picture of our kids during a better string of mornings on a day when they received a reward to go with their grandparents to a professional baseball game.
What other tips have you found useful to help alleviate morning stress? What rewards have you come up with to help reinforce positive task completion?