Getting Ready and Getting Out: 8 Ways to Help Your Young Child with the Morning Routine

8 Ways to Help Your Young Child with the Morning Routine

By Mary FitzGerald, LCSW-C and Rebecca Landau-Millin, Psy.D.

We are in the last weeks of slower paced living and are anticipating the return of busy school mornings. The morning routine is an essential part of helping a child make a smooth transition back to school.  It is also another form in which the developmental process of separation takes place. Navigating the rush of school mornings can be stressful for children and parents. With a little patience and preparation, you and your child can create an enjoyable and successful start to the school day.  

8 Tips for Parents – One of more of these may be useful to you:

  1. Prepare yourself — Children feel calm when parents are at ease and present.  Give yourself enough time before your child wakes up to take care of your own needs, so that you can then fully attend to your child.   
  2. Trust your judgement — Children like to feel that their parents are in charge and confident in their role as a parent.  Although a child may often protest and challenge the rules, children feel secure and do well when parents convey certainty and clarity with expectations and routines.  
  3. Prepare your child the night before– As always, children are best able to enjoy and to be successful with new experiences when they know what to expect.   Preparing your child the night before is helpful and saves time and effort the next day. Talking with your child about the morning routine, in advance, will help your child feel more prepared.  
  4. Know your child – Discovering what works best for your child is key!  Some children enjoying talking over what to expect, while others prefer to jump in and help with the preparations, such as packing a backpack and choosing an outfit.  Many young children enjoy rehearsing a routine with puppets or creating a cartoon drawing or checklist about the routine.
  5. Empower your child – Helping the child feel capable to become an active participant, rather than a passive recipient, is the best way to get your child on board.  Find ways for your child to take an active role in the getting ready routine to build your child’s confidence and success.
  6. Avoid power struggles — Children are most successful when they feel in partnership with parents.  Healthy children want a stake in what is going on. Anticipate the rough moments and look ahead for opportunities to give your child a role in the planning by becoming involved in age-appropriate choices in the morning routine.   
  7. Turn to Play – Be sure to save some time each day to play, uninterrupted, with your child to promote your child’s confidence and self-esteem.  Through play, children rehearse, gain comfort with and develop new ways to deal with challenges, such as leaving the house and going to school.  This is especially beneficial during times of transition, like at the start of a new school year.
  8. Return to Play – When times get tough, play is your child’s best way of preparing for challenges, such as the morning routine.  Play strengthens bonds between children and parents which helps families work together more effectively. When obstacles arise in getting ready in the morning, play is a helpful way to work obstacles that arise in getting ready in the morning through it.  

Although back to school jitters are common for children, if you have concerns that your child is struggling with overwhelming anxiety or sadness, tearfulness, or showing other changes in his/her behavior, seek professional advice by speaking to a child psychotherapist or your child’s pediatrician.

For more information please contact the authors:

Mary FitzGerald, LCSW-C. ( is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an adult Psychoanalyst with a private practice for adults, adolescents, and children in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Ms. FitzGerald, received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland and her postgraduate training in adult and child psychotherapy and psychoanalysis from the Washington School of Psychiatry and the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis. Ms. FitzGerald provides parenting education and support to parents with children of all ages and provides psychotherapy to young children, teens, and adults.  Ms. FitzGerald can be reached at (202) 236-2160 or [email protected].


Rebecca Landau-Millin, Psy.D. ( is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from The George Washington University.  Dr. Landau-Millin works with adults in individual and couples therapy, and parenting consultation for married or single parents.  Dr. Landau-Millin provides psychotherapy to children from preschool age through the teenage years. Dr. Landau-Millin can be reached at (301) 922-1114, or [email protected].





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