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Taking the Fight out of Getting Out
A peaceful start to the day is priceless. If tears are shed trying to get dressed, shoes on, and into the car the entire rest of the day can feel lousy. You can take steps now to insure that as school begins, morning wars don’t.
1. Plan to get up 30 minutes before the kids. We know. It’s hard. You want to grab every second of sleep, but if you are up, dressed and potentially even had your coffee by the time the kids awaken, it’s a whole different parent who greets them. The “red zone” of tense energy is catchy. Take care of yourself first, so that you can set the tone for a calm energy, “green zone” start to the day.
2. Create with the kids a morning routine. Turn it into a visual plan so even toddlers know what is expected. Lay it out like a four to six frame cartoon. Let the children draw pictures of the steps. It may include waking, (if you have to wake them they are not getting enough sleep), snuggle, toileting, dressing, brushing hair and brushing teeth. All steps are to be completed before leaving the bedroom area. That way you eliminate unnecessary transitions back to the bedroom. Every transition is a potential power struggle in the making. Keep things simple.
3. Ban morning electronics. We realize this sounds like a nightmare. What are the kids going to do while you are making breakfast? But think about it. How many fights start over the use of the IPad, or turning off a video? By abolishing morning electronics, you discourage early awakenings, avoid beginning the day with the kids soaking up “avoidable stimulation,” and totally eliminate the “time to turn it off” battles.
4. Choose to connect. Instead of using electronics, set up jobs for the children to assist you making breakfast. Even a two year old can help bring silverware to the table. Make the morning run even smoother by having a breakfast menu. Monday, Wednesday and Friday serve one of your family favorites. Tuesday, Thursday another family favorite. Everyone will know what to expect. You won’t be a short order cook. The ingredients will be on hand because you always eat these foods and you’ll now have time to sit down and eat with the kids!
5. After breakfast head outside for exposure to morning light, (which sets the body clock and will make bedtime easier.) a few dashes around the yard or down the block for a bit of exercise then on to school. It is much easier to get on shoes and coats when you are going outside to play. When it’s time to actually leave, the transition is simpler because everyone is already outside. Again, this may sound impossible, especially if you live in a northern climate and its dark outside in the winter, but parents who have tried it tell us it is amazing how well it works.
6. If there are a few tears, or fears, create with your child a “drop off plan.” Again lay it out like a four to six frame cartoon. It might include, hang up coat, find a toy to play with, give mom/dad a kiss and hug, wave good bye, and a clock showing when you’ll return. Let your child tuck it in her pocket. If a variety of people will be picking up your child, pin on her backpack a photo of who will pick-up that day. No worries about her trying to remember – its right there for her to see. Visual messages are comforting and easy to remember. Planning for success, creates smiles at separation making the rest of the day go much better!