As we wrap up our September Transitions series, a continued question we get deals with the unique challenges of morning routines. It’s one of the biggest pressure points for busy families, particularly when juggling multiple schools, getting to work on time, and making sure everyone has all their school materials ready, in addition to the pesky problem of getting everyone dressed and fed so they’re ready to tackle their day!
Experts tell us that these challenges impact all kids, but kids with ADHD, behavior issues and depression might have a layer of complexity to in getting their morning routine on track. No matter what kind of kids are in your family, the Child-Mind Institute recommends that paring our expectations down and making sure to focus on essential steps (vs. the “icing on the cake” steps that would be nice to achieve too) every morning. If you can really prioritize what needs to get done and let go of some of those extras, both you and the kids will feel freer. They also recommend using a visual schedule to help keep younger kids on track with those essentials. There are some great examples of how to make your own visual schedules at home — customized to suit what your family really needs to get done — here and here.
You can create incentives to keep your kids on track, if the visual schedule isn’t quite enough, perhaps by offering a special quiet experience before school (“If we get done with enough time before the bus comes, we can read a book together!”) or by earning points towards screen time or a reward.
Above all, keeping calm is one of our best tools in combatting morning drama. Stating expectations clearly, praising effort and achievements (even if they’re small, like getting socks on when asked) rather than focusing on what’s not happening, and keeping the focus on the next step ahead in the process are all key parts of that positivity. Sometimes asking how you can help move your child along in the next step will also help. Any chance to be collaborative with your kids and use helpful visual and verbal cues will make mornings less stressful.
How do you keep your family on track in the morning? What are your morning parenting hacks?