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Getting Kids Ready in the Morning

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GROWING CONCERNS: A childrearing question-and-answer column with Martha Erickson of the University of Minnesota.

Question:

Getting my four-year-old off to child care and myself off to work has become a morning nightmare. He doesn't want to get out of bed, resists when I try to dress him, and hardly touches his breakfast. What can I do? (Once he gets to child care, he gets along fine with the other kids and seems to like his teacher a lot.)

Answer:

Trying to get the whole family fed, dressed, and out the door can become a major challenge and source of stress for many families with young children. Your son probably finds his cozy bed much more appealing than the morning rush hour. And even though he enjoys child care once he gets there, he may long for more time at home with those who love him best. Nonetheless, there are a few things that might help the morning go more smoothly for all of you. o Be sure that your son is getting enough sleep. This may mean gradually moving his bedtime to an earlier hour.

*Gently acknowledge his feelings of still being sleepy in the morning and wishing that he could have a morning at home. And remind him that when Saturday comes, you can have a lazy morning together. (Then be sure to follow through.) Just knowing that you understand his feelings may make him less resistant.

*To minimize what you have to do in the morning, do some planning together the night before. For example, have your son choose his clothes and lay them out. (Some parents have told me they even let their preschoolers put on a clean sweatsuit after their evening bath, sleep in it, and wear it to child care the next morning.) Or plan together what to have for breakfast the next morning and set the table.

*Create a wake-up ritual with your son, something that makes getting up more fun and a time of special closeness with you. For example, you might read a short story or sing a wake-up song.

Although these routines require a little extra time, they often save time in the long run by helping to avoid battles. I remember confronting these same challenges when my own daughter was young. We created our own wake-up routine, which made our mornings much happier. While she was still sleeping, I'd make breakfast for both of us, then I'd take it upstairs on a tray and wake her up with a silly song I'd made up for her. We'd eat together, snuggled up on the couch in the den--our special time together. (Dad and big brother have a different morning style and were glad to be left on their own.) My daughter is 24, now and she has warm memories of those morning times together. And sometimes we still sing that silly old song!

Editor's Note: Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson, director of the University of Minnesota's Children, Youth and Family Consortium, invites your questions on child rearing for possible inclusion in this column. E-mail to mferick@tc.umn.edu or write to Growing Concerns, University of Minnesota News Service, 6 Morrill Hall, 100 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455.

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