Calmly Getting Ready For School When Your Child Is Too Worried To Go Willingly

A Mum walking with her son to school. The pair look happy and content to be walking to school together. The mum is carrying her son's school book bag. She is smiling and looking proudly at her son. Her son looks relaxed and confident as he walks beside her. He is dressed smartly in his uniform, ready for school.

Calm Parent – Calm Child

” If we want our kids to be the best versions of themselves, then we need to be the best versions of ourselves.”

theminimalists Instagram (12th June 2019)

Have you ever experienced one of those awful mornings when your child is refusing to get ready for school and behaving badly?

On these occasions you very likely know they do not wish to go because they are worried about something connected with school. Nonetheless, you can’t help losing your cool.

You feel under pressure to get your child to school on time and this causes immense stress for you. Your stressed-out response makes things even worse.

When you eventually do leave the house (in a massive rush) and drop your child at school, you feel exhausted and completely wrung out.

Exhaustion soon gives way to a feeling of guilt about the way you yourself behaved while trying to get out of the door. The guilt then gives way to tears and upset as you think about your child alone at school feeling upset, worried and uneasy.

When you wake up the next morning to do it all again, you feel even more tense about getting your child ready for school because you are worried the same thing will happen all over again. And so it goes on morning after morning with no end in sight.

If this is a scenario you are familiar with, you are definitely not alone. This is a situation I have experienced many times myself and I know many other parents who have experienced it regularly too. Especially if they have children who worry or suffer with anxiety.

In fact it was the distress displayed by my son about going to school and the repeated stress of our far from calm “getting ready for school routine” that really prompted me to start seriously researching how I could improve things for our family.

How to Break Free from this Stressful “Getting Ready for School” Cycle

When I began researching what to do, I was looking for answers:-

  • How could I get my son out of bed in the morning?
  • How could I encourage him to want to get dressed and eat his breakfast?
  • How could I encourage him to put on his shoes and coat and leave the house without a fuss?
  • How could I get him on board, so that he would want to be on time for school?
  • How could I stop my son worrying about school and teach him to enjoy school?

My initial questions were all about how to change my son’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour to make our mornings better.

However, when I began reading about this topic (looking for that one tip that would solve it all !!), it became apparent that I was thinking about things the wrong way round. Instead of focusing on trying to change my son, I should instead focus on things that were completely within my own control.

The theory is that if you can become a calm parent at that time of day and model good behaviour, you are more likely to enable your child to have a calm morning too.

When you think about it, this makes complete sense. If your child begins to associate getting ready for school with a stressed-out, tense, rushed and angry parent, they themselves will feel even more tense and upset about it too and possibly even feel they are to blame. Just think how your face must look to them when you are extremely stressed and how that will make them feel.

The best way to teach your child a calm school morning routine is to model calmness for them and demonstrate how rewarding that can be.

Unfortunately, when there is the time deadline of the school gates closing this is much easier said than done. Having tried to put the theory into practice myself, believe me – I know!!

However, I have found there are some practical steps you can take to help yourself remain calm, most of the time.

I am going to share some of these steps with you, but when reading this please remember, I am not a parenting expert and have no qualifications in this field. I just hope that by sharing what I have read and sharing what I have learned through my own experiences as a mother I can help someone else discover a useful approach or a “light bulb moment” that will help them enjoy calm family school mornings in future.

Bearing that in mind, here is a summary of the steps I have discovered.

Let Go of How School Mornings “Should Be”

It’s quite likely that in your mind you have an idea of how your ideal school mornings “should” be. Your perfect morning would probably involve your child jumping out of bed, saying “good morning” with a smile on their face and you all enjoying a family breakfast together with everyone chatting before they go off to work and school.

The first important thing to remind yourself is that there is not one right way to get ready for school. This is your family and your home and there is not one routine that “should” be followed. There is more than one way to get ready for school and you need to create your own school routine that is unique and helpful to your particular family’s needs and wellbeing. It’s OK to do things differently.

Creating Your Unique Routine

Inevitably, there will be certain parts of your morning routine that are regularly particularly difficult for you and your child. It is important to identify these difficult areas and focus on how you can improve your routines in these areas.

Once you have created some imaginative new approaches to try, you can slot the new way of doing things into your family’s unique morning routine structure.

Identifying the Difficult Areas and How to Make Them Better

Here are some examples of the main difficulties I have experienced along with ideas I have tried to address them.

Hopefully, these examples will help you to identify your own areas of difficulty and some possible solutions.

When creating solutions remember you are focusing on things that are completely within your own control to change. You are not trying to change your child’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour in any way.

This is all about what you yourself can do and say differently.

Examples: –

Refusing to Get Out of Bed When Asked

This used to get our mornings off to a very bad start!

I used to end up pleading with my son to get out of bed. I would get increasingly agitated as the minutes ticked by and would find myself raising my voice and constantly reminding my son of how late we were going to be for school.

Needless to say this method did not work and left us both feeling tense and upset.

When trying to create a solution for this difficult moment in our morning routine, I came to the conclusion that it was counterproductive for me to keep reminding my son that he had to go to school. Clearly, school was the one place he did not want to go and constantly reminding him of school first thing in the morning was not helpful.

I decided to try not to mention that the end goal was going to school.

Now I focus instead on the fact that it is a new morning, it’s time to get up and time to do the routines that need to be done every morning to start a fresh new day. I try not to sound rushed or stressed and try to have a happy, relaxed demeanour. I talk in a calm voice without shouting. I try to create the feeling in our home that it is indeed a good morning and therefore we all want to get up and start the day.

In order to enable me to display a more relaxed demeanour, I had to do some work on my own mindset. I realised that one of the things increasing the morning stress was my own fear of being late and an irrational fear of getting in trouble with the school if I could not get my son to school on time.

Being on time and worrying too much about having a perfect attendance record, along with concerning myself too much about other people’s opinions, has always been part of my own personality.

When I thought it through, I had to admit that this feature of my personality was adding to the tension. So, I decided to try to have an inner dialogue telling myself that it would not be the end of the world if we were sometimes a little late for school and if we were late it would not be a problem. I started to tell myself I could simply explain to the school why we were late and they would offer help. I told myself it is OK to accept offers of help from others. Everyone needs help sometimes.

This one act of changing my own thought process helped change my mornings a great deal on its own.

If my son needs further persuasion to come out from under the duvet, I also find it helpful to give him verbal reminders to get him focused just on what he needs to do “now” and what he can do “next”. For example I might say, “Now its time to get out of bed and get dressed. Next its time to enjoy watching your Tablet while I make your breakfast“.

As the above example suggests, I find it useful to include time for my son to do something he enjoys before school, such as watch his Tablet, watch TV, play with toys, read or spend special time sitting with me on the sofa while I drink my cup of tea. If he knows he has time to do something he enjoys and he knows I have allowed the time to spend some quality moments with him, I can use that as an incentive. For example I might say, “if you get out of bed quickly now, you will have lots more time to watch your Tablet while I drink my cup of tea”.

Allowing my son to spend time on something he enjoys also distracts him from thinking about going to school while he is getting ready and helps him to appreciate that calm mornings are beneficial for him too.

Not getting dressed

For a while after my son first started school, we quite often used to find ourselves in a situation where my son was not even dressed for school and it was nearly time to leave. He would never get dressed without a fuss or without delay, so this was a big point of stress in our mornings.

This came about because my son has to wear a uniform to school. I, therefore, designed our morning routine so that he would eat breakfast, wash and clean his teeth before putting on his school uniform. This was done to avoid him spilling anything on his uniform and to enable him to attend school looking smart and clean.

When trying to improve this area of our routine, I came to the conclusion that trying to get him into his uniform so close to the time when he had to leave the house for school was a recipe for disaster.

We now lay out his school uniform so it is ready for him when he first gets up and he gets dressed into his uniform first thing in the morning straight after he gets out of bed.

This means that my son is less likely to be thinking about school at the time of getting dressed and is therefore more willing to put his clothes on.

This small change of timing has had a big impact for us in the mornings. Not only does my son now seem to be more wiling to get dressed in the morning, but the new timing of this part of the routine means that my partner (who leaves for work quite early in the morning) is still at home for this part of the routine and he can therefore offer support on mornings when things don’t go so well. My son is now always dressed by the time my partner leaves for work. This is better for my partner because he can go off to work content that my son and I are well on the way to getting my son to school. It is better for me because I can relax about this part of the routine knowing that the support from my partner is there if I need it. And it is better for my son because there is less tension and upset in the morning around the matter of getting dressed.

I have been able to overcome my concerns about him getting spills on his uniform by making a couple of other simple changes.

I now make sure that when he first gets dressed he puts on a spare casual non-uniform jumper to cover up his white school shirt and protect it from stains. He swaps over the jumpers after he has eaten his breakfast and cleaned his teeth, just before putting his coat and shoes on ready to leave the house.

I also now make sure that I prioritise my washing so that my son always has clean and dry spare school uniform clothes available in the draw everyday just in case something gets messy during the morning.

These two changes have allowed me to feel completely relaxed about him eating his breakfast, cleaning his teeth and spending the full morning before school in his school uniform and there is no need to stress about any spills that happen. This routine works really well for us now and he still looks smart when he arrives at school.

Not Eating or Drinking at Breakfast Time and Not Trying for the Toilet Before School

Despite normally having a good appetite and not being fussy with food, when my son first started in reception class at school, he would not want to eat much at breakfast time and often would not drink anything at all. He also would quite often not want to go to the toilet in the morning before school.

I felt extremely worried that he would feel hungry, thirsty or unwell during the day at school and I was also very worried that he would wet or mess his underwear at school if he continued these habits on school mornings. I felt it was my job as his mum to use my powers of persuasion to encourage him to eat, drink and go to the toilet every morning. When I did not succeed in persuading him, it would lead to stress on my part and our interactions about it would upset my son.

When I took a step back and thought about this issue, I came to the conclusion that I needed to choose my battles carefully to reduce stress and take a different approach. As much as I would like to, I could not eat for my son, drink for my son or go to the toilet for him. If he was ever going to choose to do these things on school mornings for himself, he needed to feel relaxed. He wouldn’t make that choice if everything was tense and rushed around him. So I decided to change my focus.

Instead of concentrating on trying to get him to do these specific tasks, I decided to simply focus on creating a relaxed atmosphere at breakfast time and while he was in the bathroom. I decided to take a step back and give him a bit of space.

I noticed that on school mornings he did not seem to enjoy sitting close to people when eating his breakfast and, even though he normally enjoyed cereal with milk for breakfast, he did not seem to enjoy it on school mornings. So, instead of sitting next to him while we both ate our breakfast together, I let him sit alone at the table or even sit on the sofa if he preferred and I allowed him to watch TV or his Tablet while he ate so he was not thinking about school when eating. I also let him have what I called a “picky-bits” breakfast (i.e. something dry and easy to eat with his fingers, such as mini bread sticks, his favourite cereal – dry in a smaller bowl, or other small foods such as grapes). I also consistently continued to give him a drink but I did not attempt to insist he drank it.

In the bathroom I consistently reminded him to try for the toilet, but if he did not want to go I did not attempt to insist that he tried.

In order to address my own mindset around these issues I told myself we could eat meals as a family at other times during the day and during family meals he would not use technology while he was eating.

I also told myself he would not starve or suffer if he did not eat, drink or go to the toilet in the morning. Therefore, it was not essential for him to eat, drink or go to the toilet before school. All of these matters could be properly addressed later in the day. I could pack him more food in his lunch box in the hope he would eat more during the day when he felt more relaxed. He could eat more and drink more after school when he had his appetite back. If I was worried about how he would cope during the day at school I simply needed to highlight the issue to the teacher at drop off time, so that they could keep an eye on him during the day and encourage him to eat, drink and use the toilet while at school.

I reassured myself that this approach was only designed to be temporary and in time, once things became more calm, relaxed and settled, he would choose to do these things before school in any event.

This approach has been successful and over time he gradually started to eat and drink more and to use the toilet before school. He now eats a large bowl of cereal, drinks his drink (sometimes asking for seconds!) and uses the toilet a couple of times every day before school.

Taking Absolutely Ages to Brush Teeth, Get Shoes On and Put Coat On and Dragging his Feet On the Way to School

Although we moved getting dressed to the beginning of our morning routine, there were still some tasks that unavoidably had to be done after breakfast and just before we were due to leave the house. These tasks were brushing teeth, putting shoes on and putting an outdoor coat on. Motivating my son to do these final tasks remained difficult as he seemed to deliberately delay starting and finishing these tasks to avoid having to leave for school. This was also a point of tension for me. Time was ticking by and I often felt we were running out of time. So this part of the routine could often end in tension, raised voices and upset.

The first step was to encourage him to go to the bathroom in the first place. This used to involve a lot of unsuccessful pleading on my part. When I reviewed this, I decided I would not shout or go on at him. I would simply remind him it was 8am and time to go into the bathroom. I would switch off the TV if he was watching it and I would then go upstairs myself to the spot where I would stand while he went in the bathroom. Then I would just wait there for him to come and join me. Most of the time, once he realised he was now downstairs on his own, he would come and join me upstairs of his own choice.

Once in the bathroom we realised that on school mornings he liked his own space to clean his own teeth and it did not go well if I tried to help him clean his teeth as the dentist had suggested I should do.

Eventually I discovered that if I stood with him nearby to the bathroom but let him clean his teeth by himself, his time in the bathroom went more smoothly. That way I was keeping him company and reminding him to stay on task but also giving him the space he seemed to need on school mornings.

Also, I found ways to encourage him to flow from task to task, while in the bathroom. While I was waiting outside the bathroom I would make it into a game to distract him from what he was getting ready for. For example, my son likes trains, so we would pretend that during his time in the bathroom he was actually on a London Underground Tube Train and he needed to visit all the stations before he could leave the Underground (the stations being the toilet station, the hand washing station and the teeth cleaning station). He had to keep the trains on time so there was no time for breaks between stations!!

To address my own concerns that he might not be cleaning his teeth as thoroughly as the dentist had advised, I reassured myself that we would always make sure that he had his teeth cleaned thoroughly by an adult at night time before bed and that in allowing him to do it for himself in the morning he was learning a good skill for the future.

When It came to putting shoes and coat on, I realised that I was very hands on when trying to get my son’s shoes and coat on and then at the last minute I would realise that I didn’t even have my own shoes and coat on!!.

I decided to change this. So instead, I would put my son’s shoes and coat by the sofa and tell him it was time to put them on. Even if he did not follow my instructions, I would then make sure that I had my own coat and shoes on and that I had my bag and front door keys all ready to leave the house. Only once I was completely ready would I then turn my attention to encouraging my son to put his shoes and coat on.

Putting my own shoes and coat on first helped me to feel more organised and remain calm. It also modelled good behaviour and acted as a visual prompt for my son. Often this alone would encourage him to start putting his own coat and shoes on.

If he needed further encouragement to get ready and leave the house I would make sure I could remind him of something to look forward to on the journey. We walk to school. This in itself helped because I could say to him, “remember we are not going straight to school, we have a nice walk to enjoy together first”. I would also remind him of other options he enjoyed such as taking his scooter to ride on, or the possibility of stopping at the bus stop to watch buses along the way. When it was refuse collection day in our area we used to go and watch dustcarts doing their rounds on our way to school.

All of these changes helped us to get out of the front door much more calmly and made the transition from home to school go much more smoothly.

As you can see from reviewing my changes, they were not rocket science and some were only tiny little tweaks. However, the important thing was they did not require my son to change at all. He did not have to do anything extra and he did not need to change his attitude or thoughts towards school. All the changes were down to me, and all the changes were within my own control.

10 Ideas That can be Helpful to Everyone when Creating a Morning Routine

Although you wish your morning routine to be unique, having dealt with the more specific challenges your family may face, there is some more general guidance that can be helpful in everyone’s routine. It might be helpful to incorporate these ten general ideas into your own routine :-

1. A Good School Morning Starts the Night Before

Preparation is key. If you know that school mornings are generally tough for your family, it is incredibly important to prepare for the morning as much as possible the night before.

Identify any jobs or preparations that can be done in advance and make sure they are completed before going to bed on a school night.

Here are some examples of preparations that can be done the night before: –

  • Pack your child’s school bag and PE Kit.
  • Sign any forms or paperwork ready for handing in at school the next day and ensure any homework is completed and in their school bag.
  • Make sure shoes are clean and that shoes and coats are placed in a position ready to be put on in the morning
  • Check that all necessary school uniform items or clothes for school are washed, dry and ready to wear.
  • Plan your own outfit for the next day and check it is all ready for you to wear.
  • Ensure sandwich boxes, food tubs and water bottles are clean and ready for use the next day. If possible prepare appropriate food for the sandwich box, or at the very least decide what will go in the sandwich box and check the food is available and ready to use in your fridge and cupboards. A top tip I have found useful is investing in a good quality insulated lunch bag and keeping a collection of mini ice-packs frozen in the freezer. That way you can make up the sandwich box as early as you like in the morning, put an ice pack in it, zip it up and it will stay cold and fresh. You can switch one icepack for another just before you leave the house to ensure a maximum period of cold, fresh food during the school day.
  • Check that food required for breakfast is available and ready to use. If possible get your child to choose what they will have for breakfast before they go to bed.
  • You and your child can both bath or shower the night before so that it does not have to be done in the morning.
  • Talk through your morning routine with your child the night before (e.g. what time they will wake up and what order you expect tasks to be completed in). This will ensure they know what to expect in the morning.
  • Prioritise trying to get a good nights sleep for both you and your child so that you all feel as refreshed as possible in the morning.

2. Wake Up Early and Leave Yourself Plenty of Time

If you know you have plenty of time you will instantly feel more calm.

Ideally it is helpful if you can get up before your child in the morning to have a cup of tea, allow yourself to wake up and do jobs such as preparing sandwich boxes, laying out clothes and setting out breakfast. This will get you off to a good calm start.

Regardless of who gets up first. Wake everyone up nice and early so there is plenty of time for everyone to get ready.

Whether you walk, drive or catch the bus, plan to go out of the door to school at a time that leaves plenty of time (plus time to spare!) for your journey.

When working out how much time you need, it is good to include a buffer for the expected delays you will encounter with your child getting ready. If you plan your schedule to incorporate delays you will feel less stressed when the inevitable delays happen.

Also remember to plan in some time for your child to do something they enjoy before school.

3. Get Yourself Completely Ready First

It is amazing how much calmer you will feel once you yourself are dressed and ready to leave the house.

Once you have given your child the initial early wake up call, it is important to switch your attention immediately to getting yourself completely ready first.

Get yourself dressed, brush your teeth, wash your face and brush your hair etc. Make sure that, as early as possible during the morning, you are completely ready to leave the house when the time comes.

For example, If your child is refusing to get out of bed try not to get distracted, stressed, angry or delayed by this. Leave them in bed while you get yourself ready. This will model good behaviour for them and sometimes (if you are very lucky!) they will choose to get up of their own accord while they are waiting for you. If not, you can return your attention to getting them out of bed afterwards.

Knowing that you are at least dressed and ready for the day will help you to stay calm when focusing on helping your child out of bed to get ready too.

4. Only Do the Essentials: – Don’t Expect Too Much of Yourself at This Time of Day – Keep it Simple

It’s tempting to think that you need to do all the household jobs as early as possible in the morning to ensure you get them all done.

However, when getting your child ready for school is a struggle, this time of day is the worst possible time to be trying to accomplish other jobs too.

Ask yourself, what’s important now? Give yourself permission to focus only on accomplishing the things that are absolutely essential before your child goes to school. Everything else can wait and be done later in the day.

Simplifying your task list and lowering your own expectations for what can be achieved, will instantly create more time to focus on the important job of spending calm, quality time with your child before school.

You will feel much more relaxed, less overwhelmed and will be much less likely to get stressed and raise your voice if you keep things simple.

When I first started working on my before school routine, I was a stay-at-home mum. I, therefore, knew I was returning home after school drop-off. Having analysed what was essential to do during our morning before school, I even stopped eating my breakfast before taking my son to school. This task was not essential at that time. Instead, I would just enjoy a mug of hot water, followed by a cup of tea while my son had his breakfast. I would then eat my own full breakfast when I returned home after school drop off. My breakfast became a treat instead of a chore and moving breakfast to this time when I felt relaxed and content was also much better for my digestion!!

5. Try Not to Shout – Get Down to Your Child’s Level and Speak to Them Only When They are Listening

When in a rush, it is very tempting to keep shouting instructions at your child over and over again, whether they are listening or not:

“What would you like for breakfast? “

“Have you cleaned your teeth ? “

“Is your homework in your bag?”

“Put. Your. Shoes. On. Please!!” … etc. etc.

Although you may feel like you are achieving something by doing this, it is actually counter-productive. Most of the time your child is not listening and does not carry out your instructions or answer your questions. All you are doing is raising the noise levels in your house and creating high levels of frustration and stress for both yourself and your child.

Instead it is best to keep communications to a minimum and create a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere in the morning.

When it is necessary to give a verbal reminder, a verbal instruction or ask a question of your child, it is much better to take the time and make the effort to approach your child properly, as follows: –

  • Get down to their level.
  • Make eye contact with them.
  • Ensure you have their full attention and they are listening.
  • Only then begin talking to them in a calm low voice.
  • Once you have spoken, do not rush them for an answer. Give them plenty of time to process your request, question or instruction.
  • If you do need to repeat it, do so calmly and use the exact same words that you used the first time to ensure clarity and avoid confusion.

This may seem like a lot of effort just to find out what they want for breakfast!!! But, you will have a much better interaction with your child this way and it will save you time and energy in the long run.

6. Plan Your Mornings, Days and Weeks So That You Clearly Demonstrate to Your Child that School is Only One Small Part of Their Life

Don’t allow school to fill up your family’s whole life.

If your child is not really keen on school, it is particularly important to remind them that school is only one small part of their life. Their life is also full of many other things that they may enjoy more.

With that in mind, it is important to incorporate tasks and moments into the morning routine that have nothing to do with school at all. So, if possible, allow your child some time each morning to do or talk about something they enjoy.

We also used to find it useful to make plans for after school pick up in the evening and to make at least one plan for the weekend that our child was looking forward to.

This was helpful because then, in the morning, I was able to remind my son of the after school plan he was looking forward to. He could focus on that instead of thinking about the school day itself during the morning routine. Also, throughout the week, I could motivate him to keep going by reminding him we had fun plans for the weekend that he would be enjoying soon enough!!

These plans would only be simple things like going on a short bus ride together after school, visiting a park on the way home, visiting the shops, going to a garden centre to feed the fish, inviting grandparents around for dinner or promising to buy a special pudding for him to look forward to after the evening meal.

However, these simple plans were really helpful in helping to jolly him along throughout the school week. They all acted as a reminder that school was not the be all and end all of everything and there was plenty of time to do other things too.

7. Let Them Know Feeling Nervous Before School is OK

It is beneficial to start helping your child to understand that it is OK to feel nervous sometimes and it is in fact normal to feel nervous before big events. You can explain to them that you can feel nervous about something beforehand and still do it (and even enjoy it!!) once you get there. You can reassure them that once you get started the feelings of nerves often disappear.

I have tried to help my son to stop worrying about feeling nervous and to understand and feel comfortable with the actual feelings he has when nervous. I have done this in the following ways:-

  • I have been honest with him about the fact that I often feel nervous about things before I do them. I have shared stories with him about particular times when I have felt nervous. I have shared with him that, despite being nervous, I went on to do those things anyway and everything turned out OK.
  • I have also encouraged him to talk about any specific things he might be feeling nervous about. If he is able to identify specific things (this is not always the case), I am then able to remind him that the specific event (e.g. assembly, PE, play-time etc.) will not take up the whole of the day. I can then remind him that there are other parts of the day that he actually enjoys (e.g. reading in class, spending time with his teacher). We can then try to focus his attention on the parts he is looking forward to, rather than the parts he is not. If he cannot be distracted from the things he is nervous about, I can at least reassure him that those things will only take up a small part of the day and the rest of the time he will be doing other activities.
  • We talk about the kinds of feelings he has in his body when he feels nervous (e.g. butterflies in the stomach, feeling a bit sick, lack of appetite, sweaty palms, heart beating fast etc.) I explain to him that this is also normal and that it does not mean he is unwell. I explain that these feelings are normal when nervous. I also reassure him the the feeling of having “butterflies in the stomach” is likely to disappear as soon as he arrives at school and gets started. I encourage him that, in fact, the quicker we can get to school and get started, the quicker the feeling will hopefully disappear so he can feel better. After school, if I know he went to school with “butterflies”, I follow up by asking him if the feeling did go away at school. Most of the time he says yes. These conversations build up a catalogue of positive information to draw upon next time he feels nervous. I am then able to say: “remember the last time you had butterflies before school, because you were nervous about assembly, the butterflies went away when you got to school and everything was fine. I’m sure the same will happen today too. Lets get you to school so you can get started and feel better”.
  • You can also use the “now” and “next” method to take small steps towards going to school and distract your child from the thing they are nervous about. You can say “let’s not think about that at the moment. You are not doing that right now. Now you are putting your shoes on and Next we are having a nice walk in the sunshine, let’s concentrate on enjoying that together”.

8. Show a United Front with Dad and Other Family Members About the Requirement for Your Child to Go to School. Make it Clear it is Not Any One Parent’s “Fault”.

Sometimes when one parent is largely responsible for taking their child to school, that child (who does not wish to go to school and who may feel angry and upset about it) may verbally make it clear that they blame that particular parent for making them go to school.

My son used to sometimes say to me (in various different ways) that I was horrible for making him go to school everyday. This used to make me feel very upset and guilty and it would add to the tension between us on school mornings. In order to address this we did the following things to help my son accept “the fact” of school and to remove any element of blame from the equation: –

  • We made sure that his Dad and his Grandparents made it very clear that they also wanted him to go to school and it was not just me. They would tell him: “It is mummy who is there to help you get ready for school, but we all want you to go to school.”
  • We also used to remind him that everybody goes to school. We would tell him that when we were children we all went to school too. We would explain it was normal for all children to go to school. We would share stories with him about our time at school to help him understand this.
  • We would also explain that it was not our choice for him to go to school, the government have decided that it is a good thing for all children to go to school. It is simply something that all children do to help them grow and learn.

9. Visual Aids Can Be Helpful to Remind the Whole Family of the Morning Routine

Once you have settled upon a routine that seems to suit your family, you can create a visual aid to help remind the whole family of it. Visual Aids can create a certain amount of excitement for your chid about the routine and can also encourage your child to follow the routine with a certain amount of independence and reduce the need for verbal prompts from parents throughout the morning. This will hopefully add to the atmosphere of calm within the household.

These visual aids do not need to be elaborate or expensive, they can be hand drawn or use relevant free pictures printed from the internet.

They will need to be age appropriate. When children are younger visual aids can consist of pictures of required activities placed in the correct order. As your child gets older you can progress to using words as well as pictures.

Now my son is old enough, we do not have a specific visual aid on the wall. He can tell the time, read calendars and recognise that certain T.V. programmes start and finish at certain times. He uses calendars to identify the day. He uses the lounge wall clock and the timing of TV programmes finishing to prompt him to start the next stage of his routine at the right time.

10. Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut. As Your Child Gets Older Your Routines Will Need to Evolve and Change

Once you find a routine that works well, it can be easy to sit back, think the job is done and expect that routine to continue to serve you.

I have made this mistake. However, if you do not keep your routine under review, you will find that there will come a time when the routine is no longer working in the same way and the stress levels can creep back into your mornings.

It is important to remember that your child is constantly growing, changing and maturing. Also, school will not remain exactly the same every term or academic year and other things will change within family life over time too.

Each time something changes new problems will arise which require new solutions and your child will gradually become more and more independent and require different kinds of support from you. It is important to review your routines to make sure they are still helpful and relevant. Therefore, setting aside time to regularly review and update your routines is extremely important if you wish your school mornings remain calm.

By applying these theories and putting these ideas into practice, school mornings for our family have become so much better. Things are not perfect and we still sometimes have tough mornings, but now tough mornings are extremely rare rather than the norm. Now, my son chooses to spend some of his time completing his homework in the morning before school and sometimes even reminds me it is time for me to start the next stage of the routine so that we are not late!!

I hope something I have shared here will help others to create a unique routine for their family and enable them to start enjoying calm mornings before school too.

Good luck to all those who decide to give this a try. Remember change happens one small step at a time. Don’t expect change to happen overnight. Instead, remain calm and remind yourself you are a good parent, you love your child very much and you are doing your very best.

If you are consistent, you will inspire your child to be calm too and in time your mornings will improve.

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  1. This post reminded me of our oldest daughter’s second day of kindergarten. She grabbed hold of my leg and began wailing, “Don’t make me go” over and over. After much discussion, I managed to understand that our readings of the Madeleine books had set her off. She feared she was on a slippery slope to boarding school, to “an old house in Paris, all covered in vines.” Who knew?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your memory. It’s amazing all the thoughts and connections between different things little kids can make in their heads that you would not expect!! I hope your daughter began to enjoy kindergarten much more once you explained it was not boarding school!! Also, I love the Madeleine series, we used to watch the cartoon series of the stories with my son as part of our evening routine.


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