Family, Kids & Relationships

Parents’ tips: How to get your day off to a good start, or turn it around when it’s going downhill

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A tried-and-true path to a great day is to start it on a high note, though that’s sometimes easier said than done. But if you can manage to set your kids up for success from the start, you’re usually bound for fewer fights, fewer meltdowns, and overall better moods throughout the day. That said, some days are bound to go downhill, and it’s easier to get back on track if you have some tricks in your back pocket to turn it around.

To solve both dilemmas, we asked parents, “What do you do to get your day off to a good start or turn around a day that’s going downhill?” Some of their answers may surprise you. 

To get your day started right…

  • Try going to bed earlier, so you can wake up earlier. One mom told us that getting up at least an hour and a half before her son gets up—so she can start her day with a little guaranteed oasis of peace and quiet—has made a huge difference for her. Another told us it was an adjustment for her to go to bed early but once she got in the habit, she felt so much more rested and ready when her kids awoke. It’s as if her restful, positive mood rubbed off on the little ones!
  • Another idea is to try to think about where you are mentally and physically each morning, and where you want to be at the end of the day. Thinking about how you want to feel or what you want to accomplish makes it easier to figure out what you need to do to get there. 
  • Go back to using an alarm clock. One dad told us that when he temporarily lost his phone, and he went back to waking up with an alarm clock set to music, he noticed his usual morning anxiety began to dissipate. Between emails, texts, and social media, any notification from our phones is bound to remind us of everything there is to do, which can be overwhelming when you’re just starting your day. Switch back to a good ol’ alarm clock and see if it makes a difference for you, too.
  • Cue the funny animal videos. There’s nothing like watching cats swatting their canine playmates or puppies enjoying a bath to get the warm and fuzzies going. Make it a ritual to watch a few with your kids each morning, and the giggles you share can resonate positive vibes through the rest of your day.
  • Pay attention to what you eat. One mom admitted that when she mindlessly eats junk on the way out the door, her energy level tanks. But a plate of eggs and broccoli sets her up for a totally different day. A healthy mix of protein, such as eggs or yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain carbs is ideal.
  • Set your day up for success the night before. At the end of every day, try having everyone in the family write down what they were most grateful for during the course of their day. Put the answers in a jar and read them to each other at breakfast the next day or whenever your family could use a boost.

To turn around a day that’s going downhill…

  • Make someone laugh. It’s hard to stay angry, cranky, or sad when you’re giggling—and brightening someone else’s day is a sure-fire way to brighten your own. If you need help, there are tons of free kid-friendly joke apps perfect for tough days.
  • Do something different, even if it’s tiny, like putting whipped cream on your coffee or dessert!
  • Take a favorite book or novel with you everywhere, so you can take impromptu reading breaks to escape whenever necessary.
  • Play a quick game of tag or hide and seek. Find a REALLY good spot to hide, so you get some time to yourself while the kids enjoy looking for you (a win-win). Once they find you, try hiding together from a scary T-rex. The snuggle time alone will make everyone feel better.
  • Hug it out with a family motto. One family came up with a family motto as a way to get a day or a mood back on track. For example: “I am a Smith. I am kind, trustworthy, and hard-working. I will never give up and I will always do all things with integrity. I am proud to be a Smith!” Wrap it up with a group hug and a “Go Smiths!” cheer to really turn your day around.
  • A friendly game of Nerf war—or a round of Old Maid, whatever your family likes—can always cure the crankies. It switches the mind to focus on something pleasurable and helps you tackle goals that are manageable, making it easier to slip back into your day once your mood lifts.
  • Music is also always a good way to reset the day. One mom told us she plays music when cooking dinner, too, and “it somehow fixes everyone’s afternoon.”
  • Take a walk. If you can go for a short hike in nature, even if it’s just to the local park, even better. But a walk doesn’t have to take you far to make a difference. Just a simple stroll that gets you out of the house, and away from work or school is often all it takes.
  • Let water heal you. One mom told us that when anyone in her family needs a “refresh” to start the day, she sets them up in the bath to splash and play or she puts up toys in the bathroom sink for playtime. “Basically any sort of water tends to fix things,” she said. This is especially true if you have younger children. Lots of parents swear by putting a crying or cranky baby’s feet under running water coming out of the tap to get them gigling!
  • Write in a journal. There’s nothing like seeing your thoughts on paper to shift your mood, especially if you intentionally write about things you’re grateful for, things that are going well, or things that make you laugh—anything positive and uplifting. Even just two minutes of journaling can make a difference.
  • Have a dance party. Whether you create your own choreography worthy of TikTok or you just turn the tunes and shake your tail feathers, music and dancing have a positive effect on the mind and body.
  • If all else fails, try the most often mentioned trinity of day boosters: A nap, a bath, and chocolate! 

If you or someone at home still can’t seem to shake a grumpy mood, ask yourself this series of questions to help lift yourself back up. It’s sunny days ahead when you’re armed with tips for how to start your day off right and how to help it stay that way!


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The former Content Director at Parenting, parenting.com and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.