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Beat the morning madness

10 tips for getting out the door in good time and good spirits

As the school year wears on, getting ready in the morning can become increasingly challenging. It’s especially easy to let things slide when mornings are dark and summer vacation is a distant, unimaginable dream. If you find that you are dreading the start to each day, here are 10 ways to get out the door without rushing so much — and maybe even with some enjoyment.

1. Do as much as you can the night before

Imagine the relief of waking with some of the morning’s work already done! Of course, evenings are busy, too, so combine preparations for the morning with the tasks you already do at night. Pack lunches as you make dinner, set the table for breakfast as you clear the table after dinner, and help your children choose and lay out clothing for the next day as they get ready for bed.

2. Make sleep a priority

Instead of hitting the snooze button again and again while trying to catch up on much-needed sleep in the mornings, do what it takes to get to bed earlier. In return, you and your family’s immune systems, metabolism, memory, and ability to learn will improve.

3. Wake up before the kids, if possible

Giving yourself even just 10 minutes to do something for yourself can help you respond to your children with equanimity later on. Use the time to take a shower and get dressed. Brew some coffee. Read. Meditate. Or write the day’s to-do list. You will find that you wake up more easily if you begin the day by treating yourself.

4. Rely on a routine

The predictability of a routine may be especially comforting for small children, but don’t discount its benefits to you and your older children. With a routine in place, you will have fewer decisions to make and will be less likely to begin the day overwhelmed.

5. Change what isn’t working

Tweak your routine until you find the best flow. See what happens if you eat breakfast in your pajamas, for example, even if you’ve been getting dressed first for years.

6. Eat a simple sit-down breakfast together

Plenty of nutritious foods require little to no preparation: whole wheat cereals or toast, nuts and peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, cheese, and fruit. If you want a hot breakfast, try making oatmeal from steel-cut oats overnight in a slow cooker. After a healthful breakfast, you and your family will be more alert and able to concentrate better throughout the day.

7. Listen to music

In fact, ban all other media. Not only can watching TV or checking email on your phone distract you from your priorities, but listening to the news on the TV or radio can be distressing to your children, and even to yourself. Listening to music, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce stress.

8. Teach the kids to pitch in

With clear instructions and gentle guidance, even 2-year-olds can help put things away. Preschoolers can make their own beds and clear the table. Older children can set the table and pack their own lunches. Mornings will go more smoothly, and your children will learn that caring for the home is everyone’s job.

9. Don’t sweat the small stuff

The beds are unmade, the pajamas are on the floor, and only five minutes remain before you really must head out. Although it’s good to be in the habit of cleaning up after yourself, it’s even better for you and your family to be dressed, fed, and ready on time. Everything else can wait until later.

10. It’s OK to be late sometimes

Finally, remember that being late doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. There will be mornings when you sleep through your alarm, homework goes missing, or the baby has a blow-out diaper just as you are about to leave. Of course, chronic lateness requires some self-examination; perhaps you should be getting up earlier or doing more the night before. Meanwhile, if you find yourself running late, give yourself a moment to take three deep breaths. Then, just take care of the next thing you need to do to get ready.

Rachael L. Nevins is a freelance writer and mother of two.