Do you find yourself stressed out before you even start your day? Chances are your child is too: not only are children like little mood barometers registering every gram of our own stress, but complying with an adult schedule, complete with blaring alarm clock, and mayhem and disaster in the wider world (on television news), as well as a chaotic household, can be so overwhelming that it is likely to affect your child’s learning and behaviour (think clingy/ whiny/ stroppy – and who can bear to face a day that starts like that?).
While we are usually prepared to acknowledge the benefits of a gentle bedtime rhythm, we don’t always consider that waking is also a major transition, or how the sensory experience of waking affects little ones – among our list of morning tasks, there’s barely time! Yet, by creating a gentle beginning to the day, stress levels can plummet – for you and your child. So why not work out a morning rhythm that works for your whole family:
- If you aren’t a ‘morning’ person, try shifting your own bedtime back half an hour or so (gradually), so you can ‘ease yourself awake’ (if your sanity, like mine, depends on reading at midnight, skip this bit – just keep the alarm volume low so yours are the only ‘assaulted’ senses).
- Create a special place to greet the morning before the kids wake – with a cuppa, some yoga or a meditation. If your children are up as early as you (or before) why not do some yoga or a meditation together or go outside and greet the day (take a morning walk- children are more likely to play quietly after they have ran off the ‘ants in their pants’).
- If this sounds a bit too idealistic (or if, like me, you don’t ‘do’ mornings very well), why not set up an activity the night before so little ones can start playing with their ‘surprise’ – a few dress-ups and a mirror, stickers
and scrapbook, playdough with cutters and some dried noodles to use as ‘candles’, blocks and little people, animals or cars. If you are feeling
creative, a pretend shop or hair salon will intrigue them for ages and a
healthy snack and drink in a lidded cup could buy you a quiet cuppa or
uninterrupted time to make breakfast or feed the baby, even if you don’t
get extra zzzs.
- .There is no excuse to dull little senses by propping tiny tots in front of the television as soon as they wake (except for weekend ‘lay’ –ins – video hire was invented for parental respite under exceptional circumstances!).
- If you have to leave the house early for work or school, avoid a mad morning rush by preparing the night before – write the notes/ make the lunches/ fill the water bottles/ lay out the clothes/ sports gear etc. Plonk everything you need in a spot by the door -you can’t forget it, if it is
right where you will trip over it!
- Gently welcome your child from the womblike world of sleep with a special greeting: If you have a nice singing voice (or your child is more forgiving than mine!!), sing a morning song or (if your morning voice is less than tender) play some gentle, happy music.
- Create rituals around dressing, hair-brushing, teeth cleaning and of course, breakfast (together!) and parting for school, work etc.
- Give your kids special morning hugs and make eye contact as you tell them how much you love them. As you send them off to school, or head off to work yourself, tell them “have fun”, rather than, “be good” or “do well” –the confidence and security they feel will nurture their spirits and help them soar.