My simple solve for chaotic mornings

My story

I’m a working mom with two children and, until recently, mornings were the bane of my existence. My younger child is 8 and has trouble with organization, planning, and time management. He also tends to be very emotional and resistant to transitions.

After all these years, I finally realized I’d been doing the same old thing during these hectic mornings. I needed to change my approach.

What I was doing

Like a lot of kids with learning differences, my son doesn’t leap out of bed eager to get ready for school. Our morning routine had always been rushed and manic. It went something like this:

“Good morning kiddo. We need to get ready for school — wait, why are you putting your coat on?”

“Yes, I said we’re getting ready for school, but you still have your pajamas on. Please get dressed.”

“Hold on, you have to take the pajamas off before you put the clothes on.”

“Buddy, why are you going to the bathtub? I know you don’t have clothes on. But it’s not bath time. It’s time for school!”

Sometimes I’d spend the whole morning just trying to get him dressed. That left only a minute or two to throw him some toast in the backseat of the car for breakfast. And forget about my getting to work on time.

What I wish I’d known sooner

I’ve been giving him reminders, but that’s not what he needed. He needed a strategy for organizing his routine.

So I searched for ideas. As it turned out, the solution was fairly simple. Two tips popped up that seemed promising: figuring out what was causing schedule problems and making a picture schedule.

I liked the idea of a picture schedule, because spoken instructions can be a struggle for my son. But I also thought that trying to pinpoint the problem first would help me figure out a solution.

Of course, “pinpointing the problem” is easier said than done. It’s really tough to step back and just observe your child — especially when you’re trying to get out the door in the morning.

Then I had an idea. I decided to do a normal morning routine on a couple of vacation days when I didn’t feel the time pressure to keep us moving along. Here’s what I saw: My son was struggling with the sequence of what he was supposed to do while still waking up. He was groggy and confused about what to do first, second, and so on.

Once I saw the problem, I had a better idea of what to do. I shifted my own schedule a little. I started his wake-up process as soon as I got up, instead of waiting until after I had showered and dressed. By waking him earlier, I was able to give him a “soft start” to the morning.

I also used photos to make a picture schedule to help him know what he needed to do each morning, and in what order.

Mornings are a lot less manic now. I have time to get ready and make a real breakfast while my son makes his way through his schedule. We can both leave ready for the day without feeling so rushed. And you know what? He’s a lot happier that he’s getting more than just toast for breakfast.


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