The following post is by contributor Catherine Way.
What times of day or family activities are stressful for you? What makes you through up your hands and say I just don’t know how to make it better? A technique I use in my offline life as a preschool teacher, visualizing classroom routines and creating a procedure, has turned out to be surprisingly effective at helping me be a more serene mother.
One time of day that is always tricky for my family is getting ready for school and work in the morning. I find it hard to get ready when I’m being interrupted by children wanting breakfast or needing me to find their socks. And when I’m ready, I look at the children to find that they have undressed and are creating a race track in the middle of the lounge room. I get frustrated and try to hurry them up so that we aren’t late. They get angry that I’m trying to pack up their racetrack and suddenly we are all yelling. What’s a mum to do?
To help make this time of day flow more smoothly, I take some time to visualize how I’d like the morning to go, from the time we wake up until we walk out the door. I look for trouble spots and decide how those problems can be avoided. I take into account what I need to have to make the morning feel peaceful (coffee and time to do some jobs on my own) and my children’s temperaments (for example, my eldest son will not eat breakfast as soon as he gets up).
My plan might look like this:
- The night before, make school lunches and get the kids to pack their bags for the next day at school. Lay out their clothes for me and the boys for the next day.
- Wake up 30 minutes before the kids. Make a coffee and put breakfast things on the kitchen bench.
- Make and eat my breakfast.
- Get the kids up. Let them choose a quiet, non-messy activity to do.
- Shower and get dressed.
- Get the kids breakfast.
- After breakfast, kids bring their bowls and cups to the dishwasher.
- Have kids get dressed, brush teeth and put their lunch in their bags. This needs to be done by 7.30 am – I have an alarm on my phone which rings at 7.25 am.
- Read a story or other quiet activity until it is time to leave the house.
Having a plan which allows time for me to get ready and lets the kids know if they are getting short of time helps me to react calmly to any unexpected difficulties that arise. And if most mornings go smoothly, I am able to react more calmly on those mornings when one of my children decides they don’t want to go to school. Having a plan allows me to be the happy, serene I want to be, not the ranting, nasty mother I can be when I get stressed.
I had read and seen many wonderful resources on parents creating routines for tricky times of day. I had tried routines before.
What made this different, was the visualization process I went through before creating my plan. I saw in my minds’ eye what my children would do from start to finish. I looked for the tricky bits where my routine might fall short.
For example, in the morning procedure above -what is a quiet non-messy activity? How can I help my children to understand this? I decided it was any activity that my children can set up and pack up all by themselves. If they need mum to find resources or help them set something up it is not a morning activity. Having thought it through I found I could quickly and calmly explain, when the problem arose, that they needed to choose another activity and I had some ideas to suggest.
Nowadays, whenever a situation develops at home and something we are doing is just not working for our family and causing tension, I take time to visualize how I want things to go and teach my children what I expect. Other situations which I now have a plan for include: our evening routine, visiting a restaurant, going to the doctor and packing away art activities.
What times of day or situations are tricky for your family? What might make things flow more smoothly?