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A good day starts with a good beginning, but once the school year begins, rushed and frantic mornings are often the norm. As a school counselor and mom of two young girls, I’ve often wondered how to improve our routine by making it an opportunity to connect with my kids rather than being at odds with them over getting up, moving and through the door.
Out of necessity, most of us are focused on meeting our child’s physical needs in the morning; making sure she eats a good breakfast, finds that library book and even gets her shoes on are no small tasks!
But what if we can prepare our kids for the day mentally and emotionally, too?
With a little planning, it is possible to create a drastically different kind of morning. One that encompasses your child’s physical AND emotional needs and provides a happy, peaceful start.
Practicing these 5 effective strategies will help your family to not only have a better morning but also develop and strengthen a growth mindset:
According to Child Development and Behavior Specialist Betsy Brown Braun, night represents separation for children. Says Braun, “I look at morning as the oasis after the drought.”
Small wonder kids want to play and interact with us as we try desperately (and with increasing frustration) to tick through our own agenda.
Some simple ideas for reconnecting:
- Spend 5 minutes snuggling
- Hold hands while walking downstairs
- Share a few deep breaths together
- Choose a card from a yoga deck and do a pose or two
- Write with your journal buddy in your Big Life Journal or do a page from the Gratitude Challenge in our Challenges Kit
- Play a gratitude ball game (included in the Growth Mindset Activity Kit)
Kids will be much more willing to listen and follow your morning directives if you’ve connected with them first. Time spent reestablishing your bond after a long night can make the morning run smoothly.
“Once we connect with a child, compliance follows.”Kirk Martin, behavior consultant
Consider identifying your child’s love language to deepen that connection. If your son appreciates physical touch, snuggling or hugging are ideal morning activities.
Other children respond to acts of service, so bringing them a drink of water or a bowl of cereal will make them feel loved and appreciated.
Tip: To make time for connection, getting up a bit earlier than your kids is key. Give yourself the chance to fully wake up, get caffeinated, or take a few breaths in silence. Then, once the kids are awake, the focus can shift to being present and connected with them. You’ll be less stressed, which they will notice and may even mirror your calm behavior.
2. Create a Routine
When my babies were little, our pediatrician suggested creating a structured, healthy evening routine to help settle and prepare them for sleep. The same can be done for older children in the morning, to transition from rest to the busy day ahead.
One way to establish a routine is by making a “launch pad” in your home. Simply choose an area where kids get organized for the day--an entryway, foyer, or anywhere close to the door would work well. There, you can create a space housing the visuals and supplies that keep them on track.
Successful launch pads may include:
- Hooks or small table for backpacks
- Bins for organizing folders or homework
- Morning routine checklist
- Affirmations jar
- “Things I Can Control” poster from our Growth Mindset Printables Kit
While all these suggestions can make things run more smoothly, it is the morning routine checklist that provides kids with a higher level of independence and autonomy.
Instead of relying on YOUR verbal reminders of what needs to happen next, the checklist allows kids to take ownership of their responsibilities and assert some much-needed control.
Tip: Once you’ve selected a morning routine, be sure to review each step together in detail before starting. Discuss and consider each item to see where issues might arise, or if the steps need to be put in a different order. For younger kids, use pictures instead of words.
3. Do Affirmations
To harness the power of positive thinking, include a morning affirmation as part of your family’s schedule. Science has shown speaking positively about ourselves aloud can actually change our brains and even improve the way we see our future unfolding.
As a parent and proponent of daily affirmations, writer Amy Miller describes the “magic formula” for creating one. To be effective, an affirmation requires three key elements:
- Language - Begin each phrase with strong, positive words. (Examples: “I am kind. “I am going to rock this day.” “I create happiness for myself”)
- Visualization - Spend several moments picturing details of the emotion or situation you’re affirming. This step connects your words to the positive feelings surrounding them.
- Implementation - Believe in your statement. If the affirmation feels false, know the more you practice, the more real it becomes.
Affirmations provide the opportunity to strengthen a growth mindset, especially during challenging moments. Simply write or copy a few of your family’s favorites and place in a jar near the launch pad for easy access in the morning!
For affirmation ideas, use our 25 Growth Mindset Statements and Affirmations included in the Growth Mindset Printables Kit.
Tip: If you’re crunched for time, incorporate affirmations into other tasks, such as while brushing hair or driving to school. Or read your Family Manifesto instead. At night, discuss the opportunities you had to apply your affirmations or manifesto during the day.
4. Set the Stage
Consider your home as the staging area for a good day. Many elements can help create a positive tone, from the sounds of calming music to the smell of muffins baking in the oven (even if it’s just a scented candle).
Engaging your child’s five senses is a simple and impactful way to create positive associations with the morning routine. Some ideas include:
Touch: hug, snuggle or hold hands
Sight: make eye contact, read affirmations
Sound: play soft instrumental music
Smell: light candles or incense, spray essential oils
Taste: a mindful sip of water, eat healthy breakfast together
Tip: Create a music playlist together, and use it as a timer. Kids can learn to recognize the change in songs as their reminder to move to the next task: “Once ‘Try Everything’ starts, you should be getting on your shoes.”
Check out the Big Life Journal Spotify playlist for uplifting, encouraging, and positive songs!
5. Practice and Rehearse
As with learning any new behavior, practice when the pressure is off. Young kids can play out the morning routine on weekends using stuffed animals or finger puppets.
Older kids can share their perception of morning rituals, as well as what parts are going well and what could be improved. Discuss when (and if) breakdowns occur in order to better plan for the days ahead.
Choose a relaxing time to encourage your child to make a morning goal, one that is meaningful to him or her. Ask, “What would you like to learn how to do in the morning?”
- Making her own breakfast
- Writing or selecting the daily affirmations for the week
- Getting himself dressed
- Creating a positive playlist
- Being the morning leader who gets everyone up and moving
As you practice the new routine, remember to pause and notice your family’s efforts in overcoming their early morning hurdles. Praise your children for their hard work at facing challenges and setbacks. And don’t forget to praise yourself too!
With a little effort, the hectic, frazzled mornings most of us experience can develop into a calm and positive start. Through strategies like reconnecting, establishing (and practicing) a morning routine, and reading daily affirmations, children become prepared both mentally and physically for the day ahead, Finally, recognize each morning provides a new opportunity to establish a positive, growth-centered trajectory for our (and their) whole day.
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