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5 Minute Ritual for Manageable Mornings

The most important part of your child’s school day happens before they walk through the schoolhouse doors.



The return to the school year has always been stressful. Last year was, let’s face it, just bat sh*t crazy. This year promises to be a little more like we remember - or not. The kids look forward to seeing friends and new experiences - or not. We look forward to maybe a few hours of less chaos - or not. However we or the kids feel about it, the general tone in the household around school mornings can run the gamut from harried and hurried to tumultuous and traumatic.


Sure, you have read all the articles about ways to streamline your school day mornings: pick outfits the night before, early bedtime, no screens in the bedroom, a good breakfast, a well-organized entryway/mudroom with designer backpacks, bento boxes, color coded cubbies, and double checking to be sure this was not the week you're supposed to bake 6 dozen GF/NF cookies in the shape of sheaves of wheat for Nordic heritage day.


Those parenting hacks are great for streamlining your routine and saving time. They add a level of predictability for your kids, relieve some parental anxiety and reduce the number of potential decision/conflict points in your morning. I will leave that kind of advice to the Marie Kondos of the world. It's all good stuff and, if you are able to manage one or two of those things, you rock. Never quite got the hang of it myself. In my house, bookbags, sneakers, art projects, jackets, snack wrappers and sports equipment all came together in one tangled compost pile of denial and neglect in front of the front door. If that’s your house and your kids, don’t despair. Mine survived to become functioning members of society with college degrees, successful careers and happy families of their own. Chances are, yours will too.

There are two rituals, however, that have the power to set the TONE of your morning interactions with your children to one of calm connection, optimism and caring support. They don’t take much time at all. Unless you are corralling six kids in the morning (in which case, I bow to you) these rituals should take 5, maybe 10 minutes total. Whether the kids are going off to day-care or a school setting, by making space for these few minutes of purposeful and consistent ritual, we truly can minimize the situations that can sabotage an otherwise peaceful morning - the breakdowns that cause angry knots in our stomachs, tears of frustration and regret and our kids with a less than the desired attitude toward us and toward their learning experience at the very least. No color-coded closet or animal-shaped pancakes with organic syrup can overcome one of those mornings. Manage the emotional tone of your morning, though, and most of those other things will fall into place.


THE RITUALS: WAKING AND PARTING


To take the reins of your family’s morning, you do not have to be a drill instructor, cheerleader or lady in waiting. Simply commit to making two conscious connections with your child that bookend your time together in the morning. Each Ritual (Waking and Parting) has the same three quick, intuitive, easy to remember parts: Affirmation, Touch and Guidance. You may already be doing some ot these, but doing them consistently and purposefully will give your child a structure and predictability that will, on its own, help them off on the right foot. Below are the basics and then some specifics and examples.

Waking: 2-3 minutes/child

Connect with each child individually and privately as soon after they wake up as possible. Bring yourself near to them on their level, face to face. Make eye contact. Calmly and quietly give them:

  • An affirmation of their value as a person,

  • An affectionate touch,

  • An emotional check in.

Parting: 2-3 minutes per child

Connect with each child again just before they will no longer be in your presence, whether that is at the door to your home, getting on the bus or dropping them off at a care provider or school. Do not let anything that has happened since during the morning negatively impact this interaction. This is reset time. Give them:

  • An expression of your confidence in their ability or character,

  • A tender gesture or touch,

  • A reminder of your reconnection at the end of the day.


The Affirmations: These can be just a sentence or two, either a special one you use every day or modified to suit the situation.

Waking: The first one after rising should just be an expression of the joy they bring by their very existence - not for something they did. You can use a pet name they like or a phrase that’s catchy. It can be lighthearted, humorous or tender. Whatever you choose, it should be positive and not create an expectation of them to respond. We just want them to bask in our appreciation of them for a minute. “There’s the face that brings my sunshine every day!” “ Good morning Beloved Buttercup.” “ I love being able to share this peace with you”.

Parting: This can be more specific. Queuing off your first conversation or something you know about the day to come, encourage them by reminding them of their strengths and ability to meet the challenges of the day. Again, be very brief and positive. “ I know your creativity is going to make today really interesting!” “You are such a gracious and thoughtful person. I hope you know what a difference that makes for everyone you meet.” “The way you break down problems is such an asset to your class. I love that about you!” “I really appreciate how you use resources like asking for guidance when you need it. That is going to make today awesome.”


The Touch: Make eye contact. Be sure to take a second to honor your child’s personality and preferences here, especially upon waking.

Waking: Announce your presence gently and obtain verbal or non-verbal consent. Some may like a snuggle or having their hair stroked, others just having you sit beside them on the bed and a light touch of your hand.

Parting: Hug, high-five, secret handshake or even a little dance; whatever your family does and your child appreciates is fine. Maybe not in front of their friends though.


The Guidance: This is where you subtly give some direction to the day and your child’s attitude.

Waking: Ask an open question to take your child’s emotional temperature. “What was your first thought when you woke up?” “What color is Jason’s cape of feelings this morning?” However they are presenting at that moment, excited, anxious, serene or resisting; reflect back to them in acceptance of where they are. If you want to change direction, then use gentle language to rephrase. “Thank you for letting me know you are not feeling good about school right now. That’s important! We can talk more about that and maybe I can help later but right now I just want to enjoy being with you.” “That’s right, your game is after school. I know that energy is going to make every part of your school day really shine today!”


Parting: Directing your child’s thoughts to the next time you will see them is important for all ages, but especially for very young children who may be experiencing some anxiety around separating from you. Be sure to express happy anticipation rather than just a litany of reminders about the afternoon or evening activities or responsibilities. It can be lighthearted, tender or silly. “See you at the bus stop Champ. What do you say we spend some time at the park tonight after supper.” “Ok, I’m trusting you with my awesomeness for the rest of the day but be sure you give it back when I get home from work and we have our superhero power exchange hug!” “Have a great day, Dude. I’ll be the one with the big smile waiting for you right outside the school.” “I’m thinking maybe having your favorite fish taco supper tonight. You in?” For some children an actual physical exchange of an item of jewelry or trinket when parting and reuniting can be powerful in helping them feel secure and connected while apart.


Yes, these require embracing the discipline of carving out these few minutes every day. In the scheme of things though, probably less time than prepping that colorful bento box lunch. Think of it as an investment in your serenity. I am confident that after a week or so, you and your child will both look forward to these moments uplifting and empowering you for the day ahead. Let me know how you implement this ritual in your family and how it worked out. I would love to hear from you!


Wishing you a wonderful school year full of new experiences, growth and the joy of learning.



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