“Hurry up, it’s time to go, why aren’t you ready yet?” You’ve yelled, more times than you care to admit. We get it, we’ve all been there. Getting kids ready for school and out the door on time is no easy task.
It’s an all too familiar scene – it’s time to go, or the bus is coming down the road and the kids aren’t ready. Someone is still wandering around looking for homework while only wearing one sock. Or as you’re ready to load the car, you realize one child has just dumped out a box of toys in search of their show-and-tell for the day…
It seems that the kids just can’t get it together. You’ve told them a thousand times they should pack the night before, or wake up earlier, but nothing seems to change.
You’re stuck in the same cycle of rushing and yelling. Nobody leaves the house feeling good – especially you.
As you send them out the door and the frustration disappears, the familiar wave of guilt arrives.
Next time you’ll do better. Next time you’ll practice calm parenting – next time.
Take a deep breath – this happens to the best of us, and it’s not just you. You are not a bad parent for struggling and we have solutions for you.
Why Do Kids Struggle While Getting Ready for School?
Kids are not small adults. Kids have brains that are still developing executive function and self-regulation abilities.1 These skills aren’t fully developed until young adulthood. So even older kids need support.
Here are some examples of skills your child’s brain is still developing:
- Focusing – Gathering all the supplies for school without becoming distracted
- Planning – Remembering to gather supplies the night before
- Self-control or impulse control – Such as brushing teeth instead of playing video games
- Problem-solving – If they can’t find something, what do they do?
- Initiating tasks – Including putting on their shoes and coats before you tell them to
You can’t expect kids to master these skills before their brain is developmentally ready. This is especially true for children with sensory processing disorder, ADHD, or Autism. They’re even more likely to seek the comfort of a sensory toy to avoid stressful morning tasks. It’s difficult to accept, but the nervous system and brains of all children are immature.
It’s your job as a parent to provide support and structure as your children grow and develop. This is no easy task.
It’s also your job to remain calm and organized when getting ready to leave the house – this is an even more difficult task. But, by understanding your brain and implementing a few routines, you can improve mornings for yourself and your child.
Why Is It So Hard for Parents to Stay Calm While Getting Kids Ready for School
You can’t expect your child to get out the door efficiently without some help from you. But you’re also juggling multiple demands and expectations. Getting out the door in the mornings is often just as hard for parents as it is for the kids. You have a lot on your plate, for instance:
- Family & Friends
- School & Work
- Social Media/Technology
- Volunteering or any other activities you’re involved in
All these distractions and demands leave your brain overwhelmed. You notice yourself forgetting things or you hear yourself repeat the same information over and over again. The result is frustration, anger, impatience, and often – yelling.
The Neuroscience Behind Calm Parenting
So why do parents end up yelling anyway? You have the best intentions, you know what you want to do, then suddenly you lose your cool.
When you start to get upset, the rational part of the brain (your frontal cortex) shuts off. The emotional part of your brain (your amygdala) takes over and emotions drive your actions rather than rational thought. You see, once your amygdala is in control, it’s hard to calmly and rationally help your children.
Neuroscience is a complicated and ever-changing field. Thankfully, you don’t have to know everything to make changes that will benefit your whole family.
You can rewire your brain to remain calm when life gets frustrating.
Start with understanding just a little about how your brain works. Then make a few simple changes to support your brain. Then you’ll be prepared for the day’s challenges.
Your amygdala is trying to protect you – so instead of thinking of it as bad, think of it like a guard dog that’s overprotective at times. Your amygdala activates your fight-flight-freeze response and gets your nervous system ready to act in potentially dangerous situations. The amygdala also attaches emotions to memories so those memories stick in your mind.
All of these functions of the amygdala are good when used at the right time. For example, you’ll remember the fear and panic from sliding off the road in your car – then next time you make sure to drive extra slow.
However, when you remember the anger and frustration from packing backpacks, you need to separate the memory from the emotion so you can stay calm instead of becoming angry.
3 Tips to Maintain Calm Parenting When Getting Your Kids Ready for School
You want to have peaceful, smooth mornings with your kids. You want everyone to have the supplies they need, a full stomach, and calm, secure feelings as they head out the door. This can be a difficult task, however. Here are three tips to increase your ability to remain calm and keep your mornings smooth and low stress.
✅ Tip 1: Create an Overall Healthy Lifestyle
These activities will improve your overall health and wellness, plus they’ve been proven to help you gain better control over your amygdala
Here are a few ways that have been proven to calm your amygdala and allow you to have better control over it:
- Regular aerobic exercise 2
- Yoga 3
- Adequate sleep 4
- Diaphragmatic breathing 5
This advice seems almost too simple, but sleep, aerobic exercise, yoga, and deep breathing have been proven time and time again to reduce stress responses in your body and improve overall wellness.
✅ Tip 2: Talk to Your Amygdala
You can also prepare yourself for a potentially triggering activity by “talking to your amygdala.” For example, as you start to gather items and ask the kids to put their shoes on, tell your amygdala that there’s no need to trigger anxiety and anger at the moment.
Breathe deep during the task and notice the stressful feelings arriving, then allow them to pass.
By acknowledging the feelings and allowing them to pass, you’ll feel more in control, and you’ll know what’s causing the feelings – your amygdala, not your kids.
Understanding the amygdala and learning to acknowledge and control it will help you stay calm during triggering situations.
✅ Tip 3: Create a Non-Stressful Morning Routine
Humans thrive on routines. Your brain and your child’s brain crave predictability, and when we have predictable routines, we feel less stress and demand less energy. Creating a low-stress morning routine will support your child’s success and decrease your own frustrations.
Harnessing the power of your brain and preparing yourself for potentially stressful mornings will have a huge impact on your ability to get out the door without yelling at your kids. Here are some simple, yet impactful ways to help your children (and yourself) get out of the house:
- Get moving and awaken the senses. Us adults usually have our coffee to help us wake up. Children may need some extra simulation to become bright eyed and bushy tailed and alert in the morning! Try playing some music in the morning (auditory stimuli.) Experiment with calming music or more upbeat fun music. Play in the kitchen while having breakfast and see if it makes a difference to put a pep in their step!
- Use visuals (if necessary) – create visual lists of tasks that need to be completed.
- Use timers – a gentle reminder of when you or kids need to start a task.
- Social stories – read books that reinforce the skills you want your child to master.
- Simplify everything. Examples:
- For younger children, pick out clothing/ outfit the night before. Group socks, underwear, shoes, shirt and pants together in a pile so it’s ready to grab in the morning.
- Pre-pack lunches or snacks the night before.
- Maintain an organized space so your child can find their supplies. Backpacks, coats/ jackets, etc. should always be in the same physical location everyday. This helps to create a reliable routine and will help speed things up come sunrise.
- Use sensory toys – attach a sensory toy to their backpack or have a basket in the car so they know they have a calming reward when they leave the house.
- Be aware of your energy – calm yourself as much as possible, children can feel your energy.
- Prep the night before – make it a family routine to prepare as much as possible the night before.
- Celebrate when things go well – you’re learning and growing together.
Ask your kids how they feel when the morning has been smooth and stress-free. This would be a great time to journal for yourself as well. Reflect on what little things you did differently, how that improved your morning, and give yourself some credit for succeeding with a difficult task!
Supporting Calm Mornings
We know you love your child with your whole heart. We know you advocate for them, support them, and we know you’re doing your very best as you get them out the door for school in the morning.
Morning routines are often even more difficult for kids who have sensory processing disorder, ADHD, or anxiety. That’s why it’s even more important for you to implement these small changes over time to help yourself and your child.
Let us know if you have any questions. Otherwise, share this article with friends and family – everyone can benefit from a smoother morning routine and less yelling!