Visualize Your Way to Family Serenity

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?

About Catherine

Catherine Way is mum to two boys living in North Australia. They read lots, run lots, love to learn new things and are good at finding fun and mischief. Catherine blogs about her family adventures and passion for lifelong learning at Indirect Observations.

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  1. 5pm is the worst time of day for our family! My 3 year old wakes (or needs to be woken) from his nap at that time and always wants to be held for a good 15 or 20 minutes when he gets up, I’m trying to get dinner going and my 4 and 6 year olds are getting bored and looking for an activity. They are homeschooled, and our homeschool day is generally done by 2pm so they’ve had plenty of free time by 5:00. I’m also feeling “done” for the day and in need of another pair of hands about then but my husband doesn’t get home from work until 6:30. The animals (3 cats and 2 dogs) are also whining for their dinner about this time. I’d love some suggestions on how to make this part of the day better!

    • Cheryl,
      Would it help to have dinner prepped as much as you can before the 3yo is up, you may be able to have the 4 and 6 year old help with parts of that. Then get them set on some quiet, busy activity when you need to wake up the wee one, giving you some time to cuddle him. By all means throw on a short video when you have to finish up dinner. Moderation is the key. I like the videos on, easier to turn off than the TV for me. Hope you can get something that works for your family. We’ve all been there…or heck, I am there most days too!

    • I have to say that dinner prep time is a hard time of day for me too – and I don’t have a baby. I agree with Jessica that doing preparation – like chopping any vegies – earlier may help. I have always had my kids help with this since they were about 3 y.o. If there is nothing suitable for them to chop I have them chop cheese or something else and save it for meals another time.
      Maybe you could introduce something relaxing and enjoyable for you and the baby, like a baby massage and have the older children do something special that they are only allowed to do at that time of day. Or you could all take a break, cuddle on the couch and have a family story time.
      Good luck visualising and hopefully finding some solutions to help you with this time of day.
      Catherine´s latest post: lifelong learning and staying inspired as a mother

  2. I use my early morning run time for exactly this kind of visualization. I think through the day, allotting amounts of time for various activities, thinking about where we are going to need some extra margin. By the time I get home from my run, I am calm and ready to work through any problem areas in the day so that we can get our work done without being frantic.
    Jen@anothergranolamom´s latest post: Kids in the Kitchen: Potato Quesadillas

  3. Visualization is so powerful. I do it often and it really works. Just goes to show how much of your life you are directly creating.
    Diane Balch´s latest post: Discernment: How Do You Know What to Want?

  4. I always visualized my race before I swam it when I was on the swim team. I never thought about applying that technique to my motherhood, but I think I will have to give it a try!
    Amanda´s latest post: The Absolute Necessities for Little Boys: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity

    • Thanks, Amanda, for the post on your site about necessities for little boys – great ideas and reminders! I have two little boys and, while I may intuitively know these things to be true, I often forget them and end up suffering for it! I need to remember to add these things into visualizing how our day goes.

  5. Mornings are probably the trickiest because we have to be out of the house by a certain time of the day. We try to avoid problems by having a routine and not stimulating our two-year-old with too many activities that he will not want to leave the house for. We just try to keep it mellow, we tend to stick to one room in the house, and we engage him in just a few toys to play with so that he isn’t tempted to want to just stay home all day to play with them.
    Sleeping Mom´s latest post: Pick your battles: why fighting with your kids isn’t always necessary

  6. My mornings are finally a good routine. What I really need help with is finding the time/energy at night to get the things done I want to. In visualizing this, I realized I need to ask my boys to help more. If we are all working together, it will go faster. 🙂
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  7. My 9 year old would often get distracted with other things in the morning and I had to constantly redirect him. He came up with his own solution of getting time with a special toy if he got ready without prompting. He now makes his own lunch as well, while I help get the younger two ready. I love his creativity to find this solution:)
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  8. My hardest part is that my daughter’s father work shifts, so I have to change routines every week because it’s all so different. As soon as I get in the flow and find something that works, it’s over and I have to get into a completely different rhythm.

    I might have to sit down and visualize, though, for all my different scenarios. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
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