Avoiding morning mayhem with kids


Dear Adele,

Mornings at our house during the week are often utter mayhem. We have three children and getting them ready and into the car in time for school and daycare is often filled with stress, meltdowns and impatience. Any suggestions?

Morning Meltdown Mama


Dear Morning Meltdown Mama,

Getting a family of five up, groomed, dressed, fed, packed up and in the car by 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. is often a recipe for frustration and stress in any family. As you probably know, kids do best with predictability and routines. When expectations are laid out, come to fruition and consistency is the rule, calmer family mornings will result.

There are many benefits to having a routine for children in the morning:

  • Good routines reduce the stress of changes.
  • Good routines help keep everyone on time.
  • Good routines are training for the schedules at school.
  • Good routines keep expectations clear.
  • Good routines reduce behaviour problems.
  • Good routines provide children with practice in setting goals.
  • Good routines increase the child’s understanding of life skills.
  • Good routines increase a child’s sense of security, confidence and independence.
  • Good routines improve the bonds in the family and support family values.
  • Good routines are training in time management skills.
  • Good routines help your daycare providers and babysitters.
  • Good routines help the family remember things.
  • Good routines build daily rituals and provide stability.

I have a few ideas that might help you to establish a good morning routine.

  • Be sure everyone has had enough sleep. Rested parents are calmer and rested children are more cooperative.
  • Rise earlier than your children and give yourself plenty of time to shower and dress, have breakfast and a coffee and pack your things. Having a relaxed start to the day sets the tone for the time you have to deal with the children in the morning.
  • Call a family meeting that is democratically run, calm and an opportunity to work together. Make a list of all the tasks that need to happen in the morning, group them together appropriately and put them on a chart or a whiteboard where the children can actually see what needs to happen every morning, during the week. Estimate how long each task will take and add 15 minutes. Then establish a wake-up time for the kids. Use an alarm clock.
  • Reduce what needs to be done in the morning, as much as possible, and accomplish those tasks the evening before. For example, bathe the children in the evening. Make the lunches before bed and leave them ready to go in the refrigerator. Choose the children’s clothing for the next day and lay it out. Set the breakfast table. Plan simple breakfast foods that the children can manage themselves such as cereal, juice and scones with cheese and jam. Ensure that the backpacks are ready with all the materials the children need to bring to school. Place the backpacks by the door.

Establishing a good morning routine and following it consistently over time should help you immensely in reducing the craziness of getting five people out the door, in the morning, on time.

Articles entitled 10 Reasons Its Important to Have a Morning Routine with Young Children’ and ‘10 Reasons A Daily Routine is Important for Your Child and How to Set One’ were helpful in writing this column.

 Let me conclude with a few quotations about routines:

When a child knows what to expect they will eventually have the confidence to take initiative to do things themselves. Confidence is built when expectations are known.” — Unknown

In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role.” — Mary Oliver

Engaging predictable environments and ongoing positive adult-child interactions are necessary for promoting children’s social and emotional development and preventing challenging behavior. You can help by following clear and simple schedules and routines.” — Hemmeter, Ostrosky and Fox

Best wishes for the New Year, Morning Meltdown Mama.

Sincerely, Adele

I'm looking forward to your questions! Email me at maryadeleblair@gmail.com and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.