How to make mornings with kids less stressful (and more fun!)

Anybody who has even tried to get small children out of the house with both shoes on and all teeth brushed will have experienced morning drama.



Marvellous mornings

Parenting expert Justin Coulson is a father of six little girls. He spoke to us about how to make mornings much less stressful, and much more enjoyable for everyone in the family.

Justin says that reframing the mornings as a time to get set up for a brilliant day is easier than it seems. Prepping for school the night before is the guiding principle, but he also shared a few extra tips that really make sense. 

“Your morning starts the night before,” Justin says. “It’s really important for us to remember that when you wake up in the morning, if you’re not at least mostly ready, it’s going to be a hard morning – especially when you’ve got timeframes and deadlines that are challenging to meet.”

kids in the morning

“The morning starts the night before”

Thinking ahead and being prepared helps to create a buffer for when mornings don’t go to plan. 

“Your kids wake up some days grumpy and they don’t want to be co-operative. Then they’ve lost something that’s important for school today. And sometimes we wake up late and we’re a bit grumpy as well.

“So the morning starts the night before and that means that the night before we work out a few things. Number one – what needs to be worn tomorrow? Is it clean? Is it ironed? Is it laid out?

“Do we know which shoes need to be worn? Are the socks all there? Do we have the sports uniform? Do we have the library books? Do we have the musical instruments? All of that’s prepared the night before so that in the morning the kids can wake up and without even thinking, they are ready to go.”

Woman drinking coffee

Snacks are sorted

Justin says the next important step – at his home at least – is making sure breakfast and lunches are going to run smoothly.

“We check the fridge, we check the pantry and make sure that the food that we need for breakfast or lunch is ready to go. It doesn’t have to be made because sometimes it’s nice to have stuff reasonably fresh, but it needs to at least be available and prepared to the extent that it’s realistic to prepare it [in the morning].

“Once the kids are down, duck down to the shops. Grab what you need so that tomorrow morning is going to be easy. You’ve got everything at hand.

“We have actually found that it’s helpful to talk to kids about what they want for breakfast so that we can have it sort of at least on the bench the next morning. So when they wake up it’s all at hand. No one’s looking for anything, no one’s having a meltdown over anything, it’s all there.”

Do it yourself!

What else is in Justin’s bag of peaceful-ish morning tricks? A little bit of DIY action, that’s what.

“We’ve spent a lot of time doing what I call the heavy lifting of teaching our children how to be self-sufficient,” the dad-of-six told us. “So even my five-year-old now – with minimal assistance – can scramble her own eggs and cook her own toast. Our eight-year-old pretty much makes her own lunch now. She knows how to organise and make a salad.

“It’s not that hard if you’re willing to get up a bit early – so that’s what we do –  we get them up 15 or 20 minutes earlier than normal and we say ‘today is the day you go to learn how to make a salad’, ‘you’re going to learn how to cut a sandwich’ or ‘you’re gonna learn how to fry an egg’ or ‘you’re gonna learn how to heat up your Weetbix in the microwave’.”

toddler breakfast

A gentle start

If you’re having trouble even getting your kids to venture out from under the doona, then maybe hearing someone else’s strategy could be helpful?

“We walk into their rooms about ten minutes before they need to get up,” Justin says of his morning routine with six little girls. “We wake them up slowly. We wake them up with hugs or a little back rub, a little massage or a little bit of a squeeze. We sing a song to them.”

Allowing enough time to get going and setting a positive tone is as important as a positive wake-up for this big family.

“We talk to them about what they are looking forward to during the day and we’re able to do that because the system works. They get up five minutes early and they’re dressed and out into the kitchen at least five to 10 minutes before they really need to be. So there’s a bit of margin and kind of presence but we’re not doing it for them.”

Easy breezy

Justin notes that self-sufficiency can be more achievable if kids understand what’s expected of them.

“We never tell them what to do next. Instead, we say to them ‘what haven’t you done? Do you need any help with anything? What’s the next thing on your list?’

“The kids have got a checklist so they know the things that need to be done and they can work through those things.

Justin makes it sound so easy, doesn’t he? We’re inspired to shake-up our mornings, Coulson style!

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