Weekdays can be stressful for both parents and children. There’s a lot to get done and time is short. In the rush of preparing school lunches, getting children (and parents) dressed for the day ahead and ensuring everyone gets a good nutritious breakfast to support their energy needs through the morning, everyone can get a little frazzled. Parents often wonder what they can do to make the morning rush a positive experience for everyone involved.
Jo Lamble, a clinical psychologist with over 25 years helping people develop positive relationships, talks about what parents can do to ensure they share positive emotions with their children during the morning rush.
Morning stress can affect emotions and concentration for the rest of the day. If your mind is still thinking about your child refusing to do their chores, or the crisis moment when you discovered guiltily you didn’t have a piece of fruit in the house for your child’s morning fruit time, it will be more difficult to concentrate fully on the tasks ahead of you (and this goes for children too). If you start the day feeling stressed and angry, it might be more difficult to focus on all the happy things that happen during the rest of the day.
Fortunately there are lots of ways parents can reduce stress and inject positive emotions into the morning rush. However, it’s common for parents and kids to be so rushed that they don’t consciously put aside time to do this. But it doesn’t take long. Parents need to remember that showing love and affection is about the quality of interactions, not the quantity. It only takes a few seconds for parents to show their kids that they love and care for them, even when they’re rushed.
Even if you’re busy running around, looking your child in the eye is a good way to connect.
Connecting with kids
Taking a few seconds out from the morning rush, to ask how a child slept or what they’re looking forward to doing today, is one quick way parents can show their children they care. There are many others, and what works for each child will be different. Do something quick and fun to put a smile on your child’s face, like singing a silly song, leaving an affectionate note for them to find as they’re preparing for school or giving them an affectionate touch. Make sure you give your child at least one sign of affection before you start organizing them to do their morning chores or get dressed for school (and perhaps even before you order them to get out of bed!).
The best way to show affection depends on your child. Some kids like being hugged or sitting close to their parents, while others will prefer a quick affectionate touch and independence.
Connecting with teens
What a child likes will also change as they grow up and finding ways to show affection to a teenager can be challenging. But even if they express their needs in different ways, teens need love and affection just like all other kids.
With teens, it’s good to tell them a funny story – save up incidents to tell them from your past or from the night or day before. Sharing stories is a good way to encourage them to come back to you with interesting anecdotes from their day. It can be a good idea to send them a loving text after you’ve separated for the day. Just sending something like: “Have a great day. Love you xx” is a way to connect using their medium of choice.
There are also lots of things parents can do to make the morning a little less rushed. Organisation and preparation go a long way to making the mornings easier and less frazzled, for both parents and children. Prepare what you can done the night before.
Tips for a smoother morning
- Fill up the petrol tank the day before
- Pack as much as you can in your child’s school bag or get them to do this if they are old enough.
- Prepare lunches in the evening, so that all you need to do in the morning is pull them out of the fridge. Or pack leftovers from dinner in school lunch boxes, when you’re cleaning up after dinner. Involving kids in the process will save you time and may also make them more likely to eat their lunch!
- Have healthy breakfast foods ready to go- and ready to go doesn’t have to mean boring. For example, if you cook healthy muffins in advance and freeze them, all you need to do is pull one for each family member out of the freezer the night before, and you’ll have an exciting and healthy breakfast ready to go. Or blitz a quick smoothie (have ingredients such as frozen banana and berries on hand).
- Try to make time to sit and eat breakfast together as a family. It’s an important routine that will help your child have a good start to the day. They’ll come to know that every morning they’ll have some quality time with their family, in a safe and loving environment, before they head out into the big wide world for the day.
- Preparing a morning chart, and taking time out each evening to decide with your child what chore they will do the next morning, is a great way to avoid nagging in the morning. You could include on the list things like getting dressed and cleaning teeth, making beds or washing dishes, or completing school bag preparations, (which won’t be hard if you’ve organized everything the night before).
- Make a point of getting up early enough that you have time to do everything you need to do. You might even want to get up before the kids, so you have a few minutes (or a bit longer) to get ready for the day, while the house is still quiet and peaceful. This will be so much easier if you (and your children) get to bed on time and get a good night’s sleep. Make sure your child has a regular bedtime and ensure you have a regular sleep pattern as well.
Establishing a routine like this helps your child know what’s expected of them, and allows them to take responsibility for doing their chores (and relieves their parents of the need to nag). It helps them to develop the skills they need to care for themselves. Agree on rules with them, for example that they should not play with toys or switch on a device, until their chores are complete.
Whatever time you set the alarm clock for, make sure you get up when it goes off. Although an extra ten minutes in bed can seem like a good idea when you hit the snooze button, it will probably be just as hard to get out of bed ten minutes later. And you’ll have ten minutes less time to spend with your family. It’s not a lot of time but it’s likely enough to make your morning just that little bit too frantic to be enjoyable. And that ten minutes could be spent doing a few little things to show your child you love them (and getting some positive feedback from your child).
As you walk out the door or get into the car do something that shows them that even though you’re a little bit frantic, you are thinking of them and have time for them. You might pull a funny face to make your child laugh, have a running race with them to the bus stop or let them carry your bag for you.
If the last interaction you have with your child is a pleasing one, that’s a great foundation for ensuring they have a happy, productive and enjoyable day. The cheeky grin, affectionate touch or funny story you get back from them, will probably be just what you need, as a parent to remember how wonderful they are (even if they drag their feet a little during chores) and get your day off to a positive start.
Kindly contributed by Jo Lamble (Jo Lamble BSc Psych (Hons), M Clin Psych (Hons), MAPS), Clinical Psychologist and author.