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"Getting myself, and my two kids, dressed and out of the house in the morning can get very chaotic!"
—Patricia Martin Arcari, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Calm Mother, Happy Child Program at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and the mother of two girls, ages 10 and 12.
Patricia's Stress-Solving Action Plan:
Get organized at night. My daughters and I set aside a half hour before bed to make sure that homework is done, lunches are packed and schoolbags are by the door. The girls also pick their outfits, which gives us a heads-up if, say, a matching shoe or sock is missing.
Try not to yell. There's no need to further increase your blood pressure and stress cortisol levels in the morning. When I'm about to lose it, I take four slow, deep breaths and concentrate on keeping the volume of my voice in check.
Don't sound like a broken record. I've learned not to say, "It's time to eat breakfast," only to check up on the girls a few minutes later and plead, "I really mean it. Please eat your breakfast." If they don't eat when asked, then I take the food away. This technique works with my kids. They certainly pay more attention to what I ask of them the next time.
Set consequences—and stick to your guns. Don't make empty threats like "If you're not ready to leave the house by such and such time, then I'm going without you." Instead say, "We're leaving the house at 8 o'clock, whether you're ready or not." One day of being teased at school about her uncombed hair was all it took to get my daughter Caroline moving a little faster in the morning.