Most of us require time to transition from a peaceful sleep to the demands of a busy day. The need for transition time combined with a child’s developmental level, and a parent on a time crunch, can make mornings the most stressful part of the day. These tips help tasks go smoothly.
If you are dragging your child out of bed, consider an earlier bedtime. Lack of sleep affects brain functioning, energy and focus and complicates all that needs to be accomplished. Bedtime should remain the same time every night, school night or not.
Create a space that your child views often where all school-related objects are placed. This includes items like backpacks, books, lunch bags and permission slips. Purchase bins, hooks, and organizational tools assigned for each family member to keep a specific space, and require that a morning routine be followed.
The night before, bathe, choose clothes, pack bags, and make lunch both for yourself and your child. The night before, complete all tasks that do not have to wait till the next morning.
Wake up before your children. Enjoy a cup of coffee, a show, a long shower, or meditate to refuel. Children reflect your energy; your being calm will help to ground them.
Watching television or playing video games should only be allowed after all chores are completed, for they can be distracting and activate parts of the brain that make a child less likely to comply.
Charts can encourage independence. Younger children do not have a sense of time, so, let pictures represent tasks. Children as young as 3 or 4 can understand sequencing and creating picture charts can help keep them on task by providing visuals for the chores and the order to follow.
Create a playlist of music your children love and have it last the length of time their tasks should take. Then, you can say “by the time ___ song comes on, your backpack should be on you with your lunch bag in hand.” Let them know what time they have to be up from table and out of the house, and reference an easily accessible clock to stay on track. Provide warnings such as “the clock says 6:50. When it is 6:55, you need to be up from the table to catch the bus.”
Connect with your child at the start of the morning in a slow and loving manner to help the transition into the day. Small moments, like holding hands down the stairs, making eye contact and conversation in bed before getting up, or letting the child get dressed in your room, can improve the morning routine. For some children, morning time follows being alone all night, and the need to experience connection is strong; this can explain why children seem needy in the morning. Consider a gentle wake up. Wipe a cool and damp washcloth over the child’s face or whisper a loving morning greeting which can avoid a harsh and overstimulated wake up.
Young children do not understand why playing with their toys is not of equal importance as mom getting to work on time. Getting ready in a timely manner is your priority, not theirs. Your child may need your help to get through the routine.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed parenting educator.