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The Dreaded Morning Routines

Your neighborhood family therapist weighs in on

Morning Routines



Picture this: It’s a Monday morning and your lovely children are waking up, eager to get through their morning routine and get to school on time. They follow directions, eating their breakfast with enthusiasm, slathering on their sunscreen, brushing their teeth and changing into pristine school clothes. They listen to their parents, give a big hug to each and off they go. 


If this is how your morning goes, this article may not be for you. If your morning is more like mine, fluctuating between moments of connection and moments of frustration, repeated ignored requests, yogurt-mouthed kisses, and sighs of relief when you finally drop the kids off, this article may be up your alley. 


So why are mornings so difficult for families with young children? Well for one, the more people that are in the family, the more nervous systems there are in the family. The younger the family member is, the less mature the nervous system is. And so, when you couple little ones with immature nervous systems with many tasks to be completed within a short time-frame, we can expect to see some stress. Let’s also bear in mind that for many parents, we are operating on empty stomachs and lack of sleep.


Children are primed to connect, to play, and to explore. As adults, those things are well and good but we also carry with us knowledge of all of our responsibilities and obligations the day holds for us. In essence, our families are dealing with a simple issue of competing demands. Our littles want to play and we grown-ups want to get things done.


Knowing this does not mean that there is any magical formula that will make your morning run perfectly, all family members in a harmonious dance that culminates in on-time school arrivals. At the same time, if you are finding the need to switch things up, there are some questions you may want to ask yourself. 


How am I feeling this morning? Tired, hungry, preoccupied with work? If you, parent, are starting the morning out stressed, this is good information for you to have. Our children feed off of our energy.

How many transitions is the child experiencing? 

When you break down the morning, you can see how many transitions the child is actually experiencing. For example, waking the child and bringing the child downstairs (1 transition). Feeding the child breakfast and then back upstairs to change (2 transitions). Back downstairs to brush teeth before playing (3 transitions). Playing then brushing hair (4 transitions). If possible, reduce the amount of transitions. Example: Change the child into school clothes before bringing downstairs. 

What am I using to motivate my child?

Maybe you’ve told your child multiple times to brush their teeth and get radio silence from them. Try incorporating play and songs as a motivator. 

How many directions am I giving at once? 

For any of us, having a laundry list of things to do at once is overwhelming. Break down tasks into single-step instructions. 

Does my child have time for play and connection?

Time is short in the morning but carving out even a little time to play with your child or give them one-on-one attention can do wonders. 


Therapy Tips and Tricks to use at home

  • Co-create with your child a story board depicting each task to be completed before school. 

  • Model, model, model! Your child is watching. Brush your teeth with them. Talk through your morning routine as you do it. 


More questions about this topic or ideas about what you’d like to read about next? Reach out to me. www.therapywithsarah.org


Written with compassion for my fellow parents. Parenting is hard, especially in the morning!

Sarah Lesko, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist


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