Is that vision of the ideal TV family of the 60s still locked in your memory every morning – the smiling Mom and Dad leisurely discussing the coming day over a nourishing breakfast with their loving, well-organized children?

Isn’t that just like your house each day? Or is yours more rushing children, shouting parents, missing homework, disappeared clothes and everyone snapping at everyone else? While we can’t promise that idealized TV family morning, we can suggest changes to help remove some of the frustration, stress and anger from the typical pre-school morning.

Start by telling your children you don’t like the way you’re acting and that you don’t want these early morning battles. It’s powerful modeling for a child to hear that grown-ups too can have behavior they don’t like, and will help get your child onboard for changes.

Second, avoid time battles. Young children have little concept of time. Help them out with a kitchen timer. Begin to instill in them that they are responsible for allowing enough time to get ready in the morning, and that includes eating breakfast.

By sixth grade, children have a better time sense. Most should be able to get up with an alarm clock. Have them keep it away from the bed and avoid snooze alarms. Agree together on the latest possible time to get up and make it to school without everyone feeling rushed.

At the same time, agree on consequences – one for them if they don’t get up and one for you if you begin nagging them to get up. Choose something each of you likes, and give it up if you don’t keep your agreements.

You’ll show your child you think he can be responsible and at the same time avoid your own early morning power play. TV in the morning usually slows everyone down, whether it’s news or cartoons.

Listen to music if you like noise. Some children actually focus better with music in the background.

Organization gets tougher for children as they enter new schools, or make transitions from elementary to junior high, and from junior high to high school. Remember what it felt like for you? Talk about that with your child. You’ll be surprised to find the same worries.

Helping your children learn to recognize and handle stress can also make for more peaceful mornings and better classroom performances. If a child balks at chores or complains about a teacher, listen and gently push to identify the reasons and feelings behind the problem.

Ask your child to talk about at least three feelings associated with a problem, because only one will probably not tell you what keeps them stuck.

One mother, unhappy with her soon-to-be 7th grader’s refusal to do chores once school started, learned her child was really feeling overwhelmed and frightened. They were able to talk about ways to cope and develop a realistic plan that divided chores and schoolwork.

Teaching children to be organized will also make mornings easier by avoiding early morning search parties for homework and clothes.

1. Have an in-box for papers you need to review and sign, along with envelopes with daily lunch money.

2. Let your child face the consequences for forgetting papers. It’s more productive than you speeding to the rescue, then feeling resentful and angry.

3. Have a designated place for backpacks, books and shoes to be placed before bed.

4. Hang a clear beach bag or shoe bag inside a closet where easily lost mittens, caps and other small things can be stored and always found.

5. Keep a large calendar or erasable white board with the month outlined where all can see it. Tell children it is both your jobs to write down important events.

6. Structure does decrease anxiety. Let children choose their clothes the night before and follow a regular bedtime with few exceptions.

7. Ask your child what might help to get school work more organized, then help them create that organization, especially if the child is younger.

Labeled plastic shoe boxes may help. Encourage the return of school papers to notebooks when not being worked on.

Finally, enjoy your children. No, not every morning will be smooth. But help your kids get organized and create a system, and you’ll be helping them for life.

Brenda Crawford-Clark, LMHC, LMFT, is a Tampa, Florida therapist.


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