Since school started this week, our mornings have become battle zones. Everyone is grumpy, and my kids are dragging their feet every step of the way. Any advice for making this transition a little easier?
Across the country, parents are trying to convince their free-spirited children to get out of bed in time for school.
The fact is, like Cindi Lauper wisely observed about girls, kids just want to have fun. And leaving a cozy bed to go to a place where they are going to be told told what to do for six or seven hours isn't all that appealing.
As you have probably read in previous columns, I talk a great deal about how we inflame an already difficult situation when we come AT our kids with logic, lectures or threats. Even if your kids say, "Why do we have to go to school?", recognize that they don't really want an answer to that specific question. It is code for, I wish I didn't have to go. I like being here with you.
Address underlying feelings and it will be easier to enlist your children's cooperation. Come alongside them with comments like, "I get it -- you really wish you could stay home." "It's so hard to wake up early." Empathy and kindness go a long way toward helping kids feel understood, which awakens their willingness to go along with the game plan.
Which leads me to another important element: Have a game plan. The clearer you are about what your morning routine should look like, the easier it will be on everyone. Let them know how many times you'll come into their room to wake them. Describe how breakfast will happen -- do they get to weigh in the night before, or is it "eat whatever Mom puts on the table?" Do you want them to pick out their clothes the night before, or are you willing to devote time in the morning to help them choose what they'll wear? Deciding in advance how some of the predictable rough patches will be navigated can spare you at least some of those exhausting arguments.
Encourage your kids to shift out of a negative mindset. While it is important to validate their feelings, it can also be helpful to future pace them for a good day. "Let's run a mental movie of how you would like today to go. Picture yourself relaxed and happy as you get to know whoever is sitting around you. Imagine yourself smiling as you run out to recess." By helping your child focus on the good they might experience at school, you can make it easier for them to find it as their day unfolds.
Stay the course, be clear, and acknowledge the truth -- that shifting out of summer-mode is hard on all of you. Before long, you'll be back in the routine of things, even as your kids wistfully look back on those lazy days of summer.