Turning the Morning Blitz into School-Day Bliss

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Moment of truth: My kids and I spent the first part of the last school year without any sort of predictable morning routine, or at least one that worked. If my kids seemed tired, I’d let them sleep in — and feed them breakfast in the car. If I was tired, I’d sleep in — and then find my cranky self snapping at the kids to hurry up.

In my household, there is a vast difference between school mornings that go smoothly and those that involve nagging, missed buses, and tears. It’s the difference between heaven and hell.

Mornings are important. Will kids arrive at school flustered and distressed from their panicked run to the bus, having barely choked down breakfast? Or will they arrive well-rested and well-fed, bright-eyed and ready to learn? Plenty of research suggests that this difference can influence their school success in a big way.

The good news is that our mornings aren’t simply catastrophes that happen to us; instead, our morning happiness is actually within our power to control, and finding that morning bliss is all about HABIT. Once a routine is established in our brains, it takes very little effort for us, or our kids, to enact that routine.

The bad news is that if we aren’t deliberate in establishing our routines, our families can get into bad habits that become difficult to break. A few examples of the bad habits we got into last year: One of my daughters would always wait to come down for breakfast until I nagged her repeatedly — sometimes to the point of yelling — to do so; the other would routinely change clothes 1,000 times; both never put their PE shoes in the same (findable) place.

I did finally get it together and choreograph a morning routine that worked. It was HARD for the first several weeks: my friends and family thought I was being particularly neurotic and controlling with my detailed checklists and minute-to-minute schedules. The kids started off strong, and then, about 3 weeks in, got bored and annoyed and wanted to have nothing to do with my routines. But I was so glad that I persisted! Turning that crazy morning blitz into morning bliss is SO WORTH IT.

Want my best advice for establishing a blissful morning routine? See this post on my Raising Happiness blog at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

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