Editor's note: April is occupational therapy month.
Getting a child ready for school or day care in the morning can be an overwhelming task for busy caregivers. As occupational therapists, we often hear from families that they do not have the time to encourage more independence, as it is a power struggle between the willful child and the stressed parent. This will often lead the caregiver to simply get the child dressed versus having them learn how to get dressed within the stressful morning timeframe.
Here are 5 tips to encourage more independence during the morning:
1. Have your child pick out their clothes the night before. There may be less struggles with clothing choice during the morning.
2. Make a game of "Can you get dressed before the timer goes off"? An old fashioned kitchen timer with a loud ringer is the most successful versus a phone. Set the timer for 10 minutes and see if your child can get dressed and beat the timer! You can reward with tickets that lead up to a prize at the end of the week.
3. Make a list of your morning routines. Simplify the list so your kid(s) can relate and make multiple copies. Kids love to check an item off the list or put a sticker next to the completed item. Try placing your list on the kitchen table. Every morning your child can pick their favorite color marker to check off their completed steps. Younger children may need pictures of the list in order to fully comprehend and have success. Pinterest has great examples of lists, but make sure they are tailored to your routines.
4. Give 10 minutes of screen time if they are ready for school before a certain time.
5. Make every effort to have yourself ready before your child awakens. This gives you extra time to focus on your child's needs. Parents tend to show more stress signs when they themselves are not ready for work, and they are trying to move the willful child along to get ready.
There are also lots of videos on You tube about morning routines. Watching these videos with your child at a leisure time may help to engage, motivate, and help your child relate to the process. As Steven Covey, known for his book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," once said, "It takes 21 days to change a habit". Stay persistent and motivated. In the end, you will win, when you get a little extra time yourself!