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Morning Routines Simplified

During a “normal” school year, parents and kids rush out the door each morning, scarfing down breakfast, grabbing their backpacks, and lacing up their shoes, as they narrowly miss the school bus or carpool.

This school year, however, mornings look a little differently for many of us. Instead of signing permission slips and finding lost homework, you may be occupied with making sure your child is fully dressed before their Zoom meeting; feeding your kiddo a full breakfast so they don’t go to the kitchen 100 times an hour for food when they are supposed to be getting school work done, and completing the rest of your morning routine.

For many families, the morning rush hour is the most stressful part of the day. But with a good routine in place you can get yourself and the kids ready for a day of learning. Even though your child may resist a routine, once it is established it will help them feel safe and secure in it’s stability. It can be one thing to count on as being the same, because their world may be unpredictable right now.

Whether your kids are distance learning, going to in-person school, or some combination of both, families can take some extra steps to prepare for new routines. While it may feel challenging at first, being a step ahead can alleviate stress during the daily schedule… The first step is to get organized.

Write a list or use pictures of tasks that need to get done in the morning before school. Your child can help choose what goes on the list and what order they go in:

  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush teeth
  • Prepare learning environment (cleaning off desk, getting schools work out, logging onto Zoom)

Post the list on the fridge or someplace your child will see it often. Refer to it as you go through the items on the list.

Avoid some of the morning stress by preparing the night before:

  • Pick out yours and your child’s clothing the night before and lay it out.
  • Prepare lunches. Invite your child to participate. Do they want an orange or apple? Make a sandwich together.
  • Remember the bedtime routine sets the stage for the morning. It is important, too!
  • Make sure your child’s learning devices (tablet or computer) are charged for the next day.

Consider both your own and your child’s strengths and challenges:

  • Lots of energy at night and not so much in the morning? Get in as many tasks the night before and give extra morning time for a few tasks.
  • Audio or visual learner? Are pictures or words more effective to keep your child moving in the morning?
  • Does your child love games? Play beat the clock. Can your child get dressed before the timer goes off?
  • Which tasks are most challenging? If your child is having trouble getting their shoes on, have them practice when you are not on a schedule. This is a time to help them learn which shoe goes on which foot.
  • Notice your child’s skills and accomplishments, and be specific. They will love hearing you praise them for remembering their lunch on their own.

Other helpful tips:

  • Remember those blackout shades you may have used to keep your infant and toddler asleep? Well, as your child grows, you might be finding them sleeping in longer than you like. Consider swapping out room darkening shades for something that brings in the morning light. As the light continues to fade as we head into fall, this is especially important.
  • Put your alarm clock across the room so you are less tempted to hit the snooze.
  • Consider cutting out screen time in the morning, which can lead to upsets and power struggles when it’s time to turn them off.
  • Simplify breakfast by making a list of 5 or less options your child can choose from and that you can prepare with relative ease, such as cereal, yogurt with fruit and granola, oatmeal, toast and eggs, etc.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that kids don’t understand “time” the way adults do, and the more stressed we get in the morning, the more stressed our kids are going to feel before school. Staying calm, giving clear instructions, pointing out when your child does something helpful or positive (“Thank you so much for putting your dishes in the sink!”), can lift everyone’s spirits and set the tone for the day.

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Grilley and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). 

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