By Tanni Haas, Ph.D.

In my family, mornings used to be really stressful, with everyone running around like chickens with their heads off as we rushed to get ready and out the door. Things have changed. Through trial and error, and conversations with other parents, we’ve come up with six things to do so that we’ll have stress-free mornings.

Have A Morning Chore Chart

The best way to start the morning stress-free is to plan as much as possible the night before. To help us, we have a Morning Chore Chart which specifies all the things that need to be done each morning and who’s responsible for doing them. The chart spells out everything from making the bed (something teenagers really hate to do) to who is making what at breakfast. We rotate our tasks every week to be fair. At the bottom of the chart, we list the things that need to be done on a specific day, like leaving money for an overnight school trip, or leaving work early for a doctor’s appointment. The chart lists daily chores, and unique tasks for specific events.

A Place For Everything – Everything In Its Place

The second key to a stress-free morning is to know where to find the things that you need in the morning. If it were up to my 15-year-old son, his stuff would be dumped where he last needed them, or tossed on the floor. We’ve agreed on where exactly to put our morning essentials – school bags, coats, foot wear, etc. It makes mornings so much smoother. No one is running around looking for things – we can just grab and go. It’s also helpful to do as many morning tasks you can the night before – what clothes to wear, packing school bags and lunches, and finishing all homework. No more last-minute homework in the car!

Get A Good Night’s Sleep

It may sound like a cliché but getting a good night’s sleep really is extremely important to reducing morning stress. If one person is sleep-deprived, that person often makes everyone else grumpy, too. To get a good night’s sleep you’d be wise to turn off all electronics a half an hour before bed time to have time to unwind and shut down. If you want to make absolutely sure that this happens, have your kids charge their devices anywhere else but in their own bedrooms.

Wake Up – Then Wake Up Everyone Else

Try waking up 20-30 minutes earlier than everyone else. That’ll give you time to get ready yourself before the morning rush starts. The bathroom is a source of competition and in constant use until everyone is out the door.

Stay Calm and Positive

When you’re finally ready to wake up the rest of the family, try to be calm and positive. If you’re unhappy about something the kids did or didn’t do, mornings aren’t the best time to bring it up. Conflicts are rarely resolved satisfactorily early in the morning when there’s so much to do. Put on some happy upbeat music instead. That’ll help put everyone in the right frame of mind.

Have A Breakfast With A Lot of Protein

When you finally sit down for breakfast, make sure that the whole family gets lots of protein. You’ll all need it for the long day ahead.

Tanni Haas, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences & Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

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