Big Questions: How Can We Improve Morning Transitions?
Big Questions is a new monthly post featuring a question from a reader. If you would like to submit a question please click here.
Lately, my three-and-a-half-year-old struggles to put on her coat and leave the house for nursery school, nothing seems to be working. How can I make this smoother?
An important question would be, how is her behavior at school? If all is going well there, this could just be a matter of helping to prepare your child for transitions. Some of us struggle with all transitions, others, just once in a while. If this reaction is something new for your daughter, it might just be her asserting her independence, something she is actually supposed to do at her age. It just can be soooo challenging!
Here are a few suggestions that might de-escalate the tension that comes with trying to get out the door in the morning with a reluctant child.
Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, fatigue often contributes to irritability and being well rested may improve the situation.
Try to leave enough time for a smooth departure. (I know, easier said than done!) I remember my pediatrician, Dr. Martha Wagner, explaining to me that when little children feel rushed, they interpret it as a form of rejection. And in my experience, that makes sense… no one likes to hear the following: hurry up and eat your breakfast, hurry up and brush your teeth, hurry up and use the bathroom, etc.
Finally, do a little planning the night before. Ask your child about that morning’s departure, if it didn’t go smoothly. Tell them in a kind and firm voice that tomorrow things need to go differently. Again, state in a kind and firm voice that they are going to go to school and mention where you yourself need to be in the morning. Ask them if they have any ideas about what would make leaving home easier and suggest things like bringing a special book to share at school, or a special photograph that they could keep in their cubby. Conversations like this can be helpful for interrupting what has become a pattern.
Readers, please share with us your success with morning routines, we would love to hear from you!