As back to school time is here yet again, I’m hearing from more and more parents who are a little concerned with facing this major transition. Are there some simple behavior tools that can help us get ready for the inevitable end of summer?? Of course there are!

Shift in daily routines/ schedules

Have your kids been staying up late and/or getting up late this summer? School day early mornings are going to be a rude awakening, aren’t they? You have 2 options for preparing for this change in routine:

  1. Rip the band-aid off. Just wait until the first day of school and wake your kids up early. Hope for the best.
  2. Slow and steady prep. Start shifting bedtimes and wake times a little bit earlier each day starting now. Just a few minutes a day until you reach the desired times you’ll need for school.

Which method you choose is up to you, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Door #2 is the easier, kinder method that is backed by the science of behavior. Let’s use shaping- where we use successive approximations to get to a goal. Our goal is earlier bed times and wake times, so we use these baby steps along the way to get there successfully.

Include your kids

When you are getting ready to start new (or restart old) daily routines for the school year, ask your kids to help you decide on what each day will look like. Sit down together to outline the morning routine. Here are the steps that must happen each day- write them down. Now what order of steps makes the most sense? Do we need to add or change anything? What will help you do these steps easily? Music? A visual schedule of reminders?

Make it visual

Putting the routine down on paper can be that reminder that your child needs in the morning so you can stop nagging. Use pictures or words or both. Let your child help you by drawing the pictures for each step or choosing clipart online. Yes, your child knows all the steps to the routine. You’ve been doing it for years. But don’t we all need a little extra prompting or reminders sometime? If mornings are hard, then give all the help you can!

Use the visual

“Check your morning routine” instead of “I told you to put your shoes on 15 times already!” Give your kids the feeling of accomplishment as they independently check their own visual schedule and get things done.

Keep things interesting

If you use the same visuals every day, they start to blend into the background and don’t stand out as visual cues. I like to put ours on colorful construction paper. Every month or so (or whenever I remember), I change out the background color. This minor change can make it stand out to us again as a new stimulus and help keep it fresh on your child’s mind. You could make a new visual schedule with new pictures, hang it in a new spot, make it bigger, change the format- you name it! Get creative with your environmental variables to keep things interesting for your child and help them be successful in the mornings on their own.