What your family does every morning is your morning routine. This letter continues last week’s discussion about re-organizing your present morning routine into an easy to follow, low stress pattern in which everything gets done. Last week I addressed the importance of first evaluating and then carefully planning the actions of each family member. The letter suggested moving some morning activities to the evening and considering support practices for organizing needs, such as cleaning clothes and getting groceries. To attempt to craft a new morning routine without the preliminaries gives a greater chance of failure than success. I warned that starting or changing routines would be work. However, the payoff is a lifetime of easy to manage, calm mornings even into your children’s teen years.
Following last week’s advice, you’ve made a morning and evening schedule for each family member. Now decide on the best way to implement the plan. Some families will decide to work on changing one child’s schedule at a time. This is especially true with children resistant to change, or with children in single-parent families. Other families are already close to their ideal routine so are able to make the instant switch.
You will need to pre-set some morning activities. For example, young children may not have the motor coordination to squeeze toothpaste onto their brush. There may be items which you need to control, such as what clothes they wear or which foods they choose for breakfast. Pre-paste the tooth brush, set out the clothes (same place every morning) and get the breakfast choices on the table before they wake up. Concentrate now on teaching your child how to independently move from one activity to the next.
The most important aspect of a morning routine, and the one with the biggest long-term payoff, is teaching your child how to independently get out of bed on time. First, supply each child with his or her own alarm clock and set it away from the bed. For morning person children, plan for him or her to start moving right away. For non-morning children, plan on the child getting out of bed, but sitting quietly at the table, coloring, listening to music, sipping cocoa or all three for 10 min to half an hour. For children who are difficult to wake up, set up music to play half an hour before the alarm goes off. At first, you may need to be beside your child every step of the new plan, from start to finish.
Be in the bedroom when the alarm goes off. Guide your child out of bed to the alarm to shut it off and then on to the next activity on the list. Be pleasant, calm, and loving. At times, you may need to use gentle physical guidance to turn them to the next activity on the list. Some parents use a visual schedule. Step back from helping each activity as soon as possible. At first, you may need to guide them from the bedroom to the bathroom, but soon you just watch from the hall to make sure it happens. Once they are consistent, you don’t even have to watch because it is their routine. And that is the whole point of your month of extra effort. After this month, your mornings will be easy.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.