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This Boston Mom Shares How She Has Stress-Free Mornings With 8 Kids

By on 19/12/2014
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For many years I was a morning person. As a kid, I bounced out of bed like Tigger, at 6am. I could be found studying at 4am during high school midterms. In college, I deliberately scheduled my work hours before my 8:30am classes (breakfast shift in the campus café).

And then I became a mom, and my enthusiasm for mornings steadily dissipated. I found myself celebrating three-hour ‘stretches’ of sleep between newborn feedings. I suddenly lived for those few extra zzz’s and would do anything for them, like encircle my baby with twenty primary-colored teething toys in my bed. When my kids entered school, I bought my first alarm clock, and set it to the latest possible time that I could rise and still get them on the school bus.

Twenty one years of morning departures have taught me a few things about what works… and what doesn’t. Over the years, we’ve gotten eight kids to four different schools in the morning without much drama. But we’ve certainly had our moments that left me in tears, and feeling guilty the entire day. Here’s what I’ve learned about getting out the door gracefully:

1. Wake Up Before Your Children

Even if you set your alarm and stay in bed, become conscious before your kids burst in. This quiet time is a critical moment of the day, and ten extra minutes of sleep isn’t a good trade when it comes to school mornings. When we wake up early, we are ahead of the game. We don’t interpret our kids’ healthy energy as an intrusion. As a result, we can greet them more warmly. Use these few golden minutes to breathe deeply, stretch, offer up a prayer for the day, clear your mind, and identify something you’re looking forward to.

2. Avoid Disciplining Your Kids

This can be really hard, especially when everyone needs to be on the bus at 7:33am. One missing sneaker is all it takes to blow a hole through the ceiling in the shape of a mom. Not only do our children’s limitations and shortcomings come to mind more readily when we are stressed, they also appear more magnified. Morning mishaps send our heart rates to the moon faster than at any other time of the day. This said, mornings are the best time for understanding, space and peaceful goodbyes. Choose quieter moments on weekends or afternoons to address things like sleeping late, messy rooms, and unfinished homework. Real change doesn’t happen amidst anger and frustration, but through consistent, unemotional strategies that play to your children’s strengths. These are best thought out together in calmer moments.

3. Pray With Your Kids

This can be a simple gesture, like a blessing before breakfast, or a more formal prayer according to your traditions. It can even be sharing a wise quote or saying. This simple act not only reorients our children in front of the day to come, it also gives us a moment to breath and express our own gratitude for a new beginning. It communicates what’s most important in our homes: peace, joy and love.

4. Hold Off on Emails and Social Media

Mornings with children require our presence, focus and attention. Checking my email while serving breakfast and packing lunches makes me unproductive and inefficient at every task. I am more distracted and less available to my children just when they need me most. I also don’t experience any significant benefit, as emails can’t be well-crafted while I’m brushing my toddler’s teeth. Our children need eye contact, simple affirmations and encouragement to start their day on the right footing. Most often, emails and Facebook can wait.

5. Post an ‘I can do it’ List

We have morning (and evening) laminated routines posted on our kitchen wall, as well as on the upstairs bathroom mirror. This serves as a checklist for the children, and takes the emotion out of our mornings. Instead of having to remember everything in a sleepy haze, we can simply refer to the list. We don’t have to monitor every child’s readiness when there’s a family routine posted in clear view. This removes a lot of pressure, especially when we have several children to get out the door. They take pride in checking off their tasks, and eventually memorize their lists without even trying.

Remember: Good Mornings Start the Night Before

Most of our morning ‘episodes’ can be traced back to the previous night. Here are ways to minimize the unpredictables:
– Have your children lay their clothes out the night before, clean socks and underwear included (anticipate gym and art days, decide accordingly).
– Set out toddler/baby outfits, and unfold diapers (every second counts!)
– Keep hairbrushes and hair-bows where you can easily find them.
– Set the breakfast table the night before, including bowls and silverware.
– Prepare breakfast foods in advance (my husband and I hard-boil and peel 20 eggs on Sundays)
– Place all backpacks by the exit, and pack with non-perishable snacks, homework, and elementary school folders.
– Prepare notes for teachers, permission slips, and monetary contributions for things like ‘school store’ the night before.
– Keep one set of toothbrushes and toothpaste by the kitchen sink, for faster washing.
– Purchase a less expensive spare set of winter clothes (snow pants and boots) to keep at school for a much faster departure on winter mornings.
– Transfer car seats and boosters to the proper vehicle the night before.
– Pack up instruments and/or sports gear the night before.

Tara Sareen
Tara is a Certified Health Coach for mothers in the Greater Boston Area. She lives with her husband and eight children. As the founder of iCrave Coaching, Tara coordinates her clients' wellness goals around nutrition, weight loss, appropriate physical activity and stress management. Find her at http://www.iCraveCoaching.com and on Facebook at iCrave Coaching.
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