A guest post by Allison Davies
I am definitely a crabby Mum first thing in the morning!
I don’t want to be talked to. I don’t want to talk back. I don’t want to make breakfast, I don’t want to hear the cartoons. I just want to be left alone until I’m ready.
This is not because I’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed. It’s because I have a brain, and brains are computers and they need to load before they can work. When we turn on our computer, we don’t expect that we can immediately get stuck into that spreadsheet or Google search, we know it needs time to load.
Our brain is no different! It needs to become active. It needs to get ready before we can do all the things.
But with our modern-day, rushed and urgent lifestyle, we make very little time or space first thing in the morning to prime our brain before we need to start using it.
And if we, as adults, experience this crabby, anxious morning feeling just imagine how much harder it must be for a child, especially a young child who doesn’t yet have the emotional regulation skills that we as adults generally do. And yet they’re expected to get up, get dressed, sit at the table, have their breakfast, do their teeth, remember their library book, pack their lunch and all the other morning jobs. Imagine the crabbiness, the anxiety that they must experience.
All of these morning tasks require what we call ‘executive functioning’ and the brain needs to be active before it can make these things happen.
If our kids haven’t had sufficient time in the morning to play, to do some stretching, to move, to have some music, use their imaginations, a little bit of creative time or fresh air — then their brain is not necessarily going to be primed in the way they need it to be so that they can function easily.
But fear not! Because it is super simple to prime our brains, and one of the best ways to do this is with music.
Research tells us that when we experience music, more of our brain activates than it does when we experience any other thing. And this can happen from listening to music, making music, or even just thinking about it.
So, simply listening to music in the mornings as part of your daily routine will help activate your brain and your child’s brain so that everybody can work together more harmoniously in the mornings. I recommend choosing songs that your children love, make a playlist, listen to your favourite CD.
You could opt for an early morning disco party — just turn on the music and all have a quick dance around the lounge room together.
A really important element of music is it’s physicality. Movement, dancing, stretching. This, in conjunction with rhythm and melody, absolutely does wonders for getting the brain active and ready to work!
You could do a little bit of instrument playing.
If your child learns an instrument, mornings would be a great time for them to have their 15 minutes of practice.
When your toddler comes into your bedroom at 5am and jumps on you with no intention of anyone getting back to sleep, try singing with them — to prepare yourself just as much as them for the day ahead, and the requirements that are going to be thrown on you the moment you all get up.
These strategies are super simple, they don’t take a lot of time and you don’t need to be musical to be able to achieve them.
So if you or your children are finding that you’re crabby in the morning, anxious, worked up, not functioning at your best, not able to get the jobs done on time then these simple, music based exercises are a must — and a fun one at that — to get you walking out the door harmoniously and calmly.
Allison Davies specialises in music and brain care. Alli lives in regional NW Tasmania with her young family. She is joining Maggie Dent and Dr Kaylene Henderson for Maggie’s one-day conference Calming Today’s Anxious Children happening in Canberra (24th February 2024). Find out more here.