Getting ready in the morning can sometimes be a struggle with children. How many crises did you avoid today between the time that alarm set off, and you all finally managed to leave the house? Do you have the feeling of tiptoeing across a minefield? It could be an excellent time to take a deep breath and review your family's morning routines. We can all agree that rushing doesn’t help anyone giving their best. We also know that there are days when time is truly limited, and necessity forces us to leave the house at a specific time and speed up the pace.
Here are some suggestions that might help you start the day more positively.
- Following a routine. Children, especially toddlers, have a desperate need for order. Surrounded by order, they learn how to make sense of the world around them and create internal order. Building the day around set routines or, if you prefer, a predictable rhythm helps the child feel in control, at ease, and more conscious of his own time. Even better if the routines have been decided together so that the child knows what to expect next at any given moment.
- Use of a timeline. Toddlers and older children might find benefit in seeing pictures of the actions that take them from their bed to the door. The timeline can be created and discussed together and might include breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.
- Providing a choice within the routine. The option should be between two (or maximum three) alternatives that we consider acceptable (e.g. between two jackets, shoes, the order of two actions). Not only does the child learn to make decisions, but s/he also feels the protagonist within his/her environment.
- Supporting independence. During the first six years of life, children are driven by a strong desire for freedom. Providing time and space for the autonomy to grow, for the children to learn to get dressed and take care of themselves independently when there is time, will prove benefits in the long run.
- Everything in its place. Children give their best in a predictable and structured environment. This could mean arranging the breakfast ingredients for them to be always found in the same place, ready to be used. Or setting up a corner near the door where the necessary to go out can be found, such as jacket, shoes, boots, hat, etc.
- Explaining simply and honestly what our needs are and why do we need to leave the house at a specific time. Creating a culture of mutual respect means also expressing our needs and ensuring they are met.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day! Take your time to explore one strategy, one change at a time, without rushing or ultimately turning your (morning) life upside down.
Which ones of these strategies are you going to try out first?