How is your morning routine going?
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For most parents, it’s a stressful time, so here are some tips to help things go more smoothly and have more fun:
The first step to a radically easier off-to-school morning is to slow down!
It’s natural that we’re in a rush in the morning. We’re thinking of getting the children to school or nursery on time, or getting ourselves to work on time after that. But when we’re in a rush, children don’t feel us present to them. In fact, we’re not really present to them. We’re focused on our thoughts and children find that really hard because they need our presence to feel okay.
When we’re not present and we’re dashing here and there, they throw things in our path just to slow us down and bring us into the moment – even if in a negative way – and that’s when we get tricky behaviour. That’s why I say, start by slowing down and you’ll find that things go much more easily, and you have time for step number two.
Step two is to connect and accompany.
When there’s so much to do before we get off to school in the morning – there are so many tasks that we need them to do and that we need to do ourselves – we’re often just issuing instructions here and there.
‘Do this, do that…’
‘By the time I’ve brushed my teeth, I want you to have done that.’
We don’t allow the time to connect. We forget that children need connection at times like this more than ever. And we also have this assumption that when a child can do something for themselves, like get their trousers on, they don’t need us there, and that may not be true. Sometimes children need us to accompany them with certain tasks for a lot longer than we think, even if they can physically do it for themselves. They need to feel us there supporting them in order to be able to do it. In fact, you can assume that if your child isn’t doing something, it’s not because they won’t, it’s because they actually can’t. They need you there.
It might be as simple as just sitting on the bed and saying, ‘Shall I sit with you while you get your tights on? Here they are. That’s it.’
It’s nothing complicated, and see the difference that it makes. In fact, thinking of tights, I remember a father I was working with a year or so ago who said, at the beginning of our work together, that off-to-school mornings were a nightmare for him. And the words he used were, ‘I don’t want to be there, Oona.’
He had a bit of an epiphany over some tights, where he realized that all he needed to do was sit down with his daughter and accompany her as she put on her tights. From that moment, everything turned and they started having really lovely off-to-school mornings.
Number three is giving your child something to do.
Children are doers – they want to do stuff – they want to get engaged and involved. So, say you’ve got a two-year-old, you might want to put a step stool in the bathroom so that they can climb up and get down their toothpaste or their toothbrush (with you there to make sure they’re safe, of course). It means that your two-year-old gets to practise their climbing skills and do something. For children, every opportunity to practise doing something and develop their skills is really welcomed.
Another thing you can try is at the breakfast table. If you have cereal, give your children a small jug and put in just enough milk so that they can add their own to the cereal. It’s fun, and they get to develop their pouring skills.
Number four is having things ready the night before.
And this brings us back to number one about being present, because when we are having to deal with clothes and breakfast and all sorts of practical things, we can’t be there for our children at the same time – our minds are occupied. If you set up a few of the practical things the night before, you’ll be amazed how much emotional and mental space that opens up for you. You can make time to connect and focus on enjoying time together, expressing love for your child, filling them up with love, because it’s really all about love. And when we make space and time for love, everything goes so much more easily. This is one way you can do that.
Number five is to take time to listen to your child.
There may be upsets en route from bed to the car, or however you get to school. If something doesn’t go right, or they don’t like Mrs. So-and-so, or they’re upset because they’re sitting next to So-and-so, or they don’t want to go to school at all, take time to listen. You don’t have to fix it.
Don’t feel you have to solve whatever they’ve brought up – it’s just the very act of getting down to your child’s level and listening and saying, ‘Uhuh,’ and nodding. And maybe repeating back to them what they’ve said so that they know you’ve heard – just making space for that. That makes all the difference. That brings in connection again. And, as I said in Step #2, connection is key. That’s what makes your off-to-school morning move right up the scale towards number ten.
If your child is a bit teary and not wanting to go to school, or missing you, you can create a little ritual to top them up with love so that they can last through the day.
It is a long time for a small child to be away from home, whether it’s at school or nursery. One ritual you can try is to have a ‘charge heart’. You can get creative and make up your own, of course, but this is a suggestion to get you started.
Draw a little heart on your palm and another on theirs. Match them up by holding hands and ‘charge them up’ with so much love from your heart, all the way into their heart, to fill up their whole body, talking them through it and having a really loving moment together.
Tell them that this love will last them all the way through the day until they come back home and get recharged again by a big, big hug.
Last, but very much not least – in a way, the most important thing of all, not just for off-to-school mornings, but overall in our family life with our children – commit to seeing your child in a positive light, seeing them as their best selves.
Commit to unconditional positive regard.
I know how challenging this can be when behaviour is not quite the best, but children swim in our thoughts and feelings like fish swim in the sea. What we’re thinking and feeling about them influences them to a degree you couldn’t imagine. It’s huge. And so, if you feel stuck in a negative pattern, feeling like although you adore your child, you love them, right now you just don’t like them, you’re fed up with their moods. You’d just like to shift something and feel that connection you used to feel again.
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