The process of getting up and out of the house in the morning can be stressful for all of us.
Too often we forget how essential a healthy morning routine is to helping our kids start their day off right. When kids arrive at school in a good frame of mind it can significantly improve their ability to focus and learn. But often kids arrive at school (and we arrive at work) with our brains in a state of stress from the chaotic frenzy we’ve experienced trying to get out of the house and to school and work on time.
When kids experience this kind of stress in the morning it elicits a stress response in the brain that makes it difficult for them to pay attention, control their impulses and absorb new information.
Stressful mornings make it difficult to for kids to pay attention, control impulses & absorb new info.
A mindful morning helps our kids to arrive at school ready to learn.
Intentionally creating a mindful morning for our kids can stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain that allows them to think critically, solve problems, pay attention and make good choices. A It also helps lessen our own stress load – giving our work day a much saner start.
Six obvious (but often ignored) tips for mindful mornings:
A few weeks before school starts begin to wake your kids earlier (I know it seems sacrilege, but it will pay off on the first day of school). Try to work back to their school year waking time at least a few days before school actually starts. This will also help you start to get them to bed at a reasonable hour.
Prepare the night before.
Make the gathering of random items part of the bedtime routine. Filling backpacks, making lunches, and picking out clothes the night before will ease the stress of the morning departure.
Wake YOURSELF up early!
Give yourself some time before the kids wake up to have your coffee, check your email, meditate or do whatever it is that you need to do before the kids need your attention. When you can get your stuff out of the way before they wake up it is much easier to be present and engaged with them when they wake up. Your engagement with them will make the transition out of the house much smoother!
Create a routine.
A healthy morning routine is just as important as the bedtime routine. Establishing some calming rituals like a morning snuggle, reading together, walking or riding a bike to school will help your kids arrive at school in the right frame of mind.
It is easy to put on a show or movie in the morning to keep the kids occupied while you prepare to leave the house. Putting your kids in front of the TV or computer elicits a stress response in the brain making it difficult for them to use the part of their brain responsible for paying attention, solving problems, and controlling impulses. If you can avoid this in the morning you will help your kids arrive at school ready to learn.
Think about your own screen habits. If checking your work email while also trying not to burn breakfast is a daily habit, be honest about whether or not multitasking is helping your productivity. In our Mindfulness and the Workplace course, we teach you how to optimize your own prefrontal cortex. And the research behind doing two things at once shows us multitasking isn’t as helpful as we think it is.
When we get our bodies moving in the morning our brain releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and the sleep/wake cycle. High levels of serotonin are associated with an elevated mood while low levels are associated with depression. When kids feel happier, life is better! Walk, run or ride your bike to school or drive to school early so they can play on the playground if that is allowed.
Finally, especially if you have one starting Kindergarten, bring Kleenex! They sure grow up fast!