News & Articles

SURVIVING MONDAY MORNINGS – Structure with a Dash of Flexibility

By Laura Johnson-Hughes L.M.S.W.

Are some days a rough start? Are you running late despite efforts? For many families, the morning transition is a challenging time that can lead to frustration, tears, and complications.What are some best practices? Let us revisit your routine and explore adjustments that fit your family and your needs.  

Step One – Assess patterns and barriers. The family with a slow-moving child may need to add more time to the morning ritual. This child may need a prompt or two to get moving. For the caregiver, they may need to get up earlier to initiate this routine.

Step Two – Assess time needed. What is the average time for hygiene and dressing? Is your child a slower eater? How much time do you need to get ready? Are there other individuals that need to be accounted for? Evening showers needed for some or all? Do you have capacity in the morning? 

Step Three – Order of operations! When do you need to leave in order to arrive 5 minutes early at your first destination? Back out the time you have assessed that you and your family need to arrive. Establish what time you need to get started and include an additional 10-20 minutes as a contingency.

So, what could that look like:

  • Parent (s) – Get up 30-60 + minutes before the children and complete your own personal routine.
  • Prompt others to wake up at a consistent time. Stay present to ensure that your child is awake, out of the bed and initiating their routine. If there are multiple children, stagger the wake-up time according to need.
  • Review simple instructions – consider a list, pictures, photos, or message board as a reference. See the link below.
  • Prompt movement to the next step directly in person at least once and more often as needed.
  • Set expectations that the entire morning ritual be completed before coming down for breakfast. This includes socks and locating shoes.
  • Direct everyone to engage in breakfast ritual, brush teeth, and gather items for the day.


Communication:  Ensure that everyone knows what time they need to be ready, with all items gathered and fully dressed in footwear. The extra time mentioned above allows for mishaps such as missing shoes or grumpy participants.

Behavior Challenges

To enhance motivation, it may be helpful to propose a contest to see who gets to the door with all their belongings on time.

If your child moves slowly and tends to stall in the process, accept that prompts will be necessary. Using in-person reminders and/or timers or alarms can help you move everyone along.

For the high energy child, the morning routine may need to include 10 minutes on a trampoline or even a few minutes reading their favorite book. This individual can be recruited to be your helper to help them maintain their mood and focus.

Sibling conflict – If there are issues, explore how you can intervene early, redirect, distract and separate. One child could be prompted to start to gather items, while the other finishes their routine in a different space. Consider which child needs to be in your vicinity most of the time.

If phones are a distraction, consider restricting access until later in the routine. This can always be the carrot! “When you are done, then you may have access.”

Consider a “Quiet Kit”. Ensure age-appropriate items. For some kids that could be a reading or coloring book; It could be a picture directing them to headphones, hot wheel cars, Lego or other toys, an approved TV show or a YouTube video, fidgets or even a puzzle. 

You may develop an independent “Cozy Corner” for each person to use to settle down and regroup. A place with a comfy pillow or blanket and other items that they find calming.


Your self-care is a must when moving a busy family out the door on time.  Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! This is how you regulate, rejuvenate, and heal! Engage in your own morning relaxation ritual – this could be music, deep breathing, stretching or a brief to moderate workout. 

If the tension is high, take a brief “adult time-out” to breath, regroup, and then re-engage.

Do you have an option to tag team? One caregiver could be primary every other day, while the other party has some “me” time or gets in their own workout. You could divide and conquer tasks – consider focusing on strengths. 

The night before, complete and organize all possible tasks. This may include lunches, breakfast prep, backpacks with homework and clothes picked out, incorporating assistance from all family members.

Make laundry a weekend priority to avoid time wasters such as looking for matching socks, etc. Match outfits and hang or store for easy access. Additional food preparation could be advantageous.

Anticipate common family patterns/setbacks:  

Parent(s), consider having a backup clothing ensemble in case of spills or wardrobe malfunctions – The same strategy is recommended for other family members.

Be prepared to get input from others about their favorite piece of clothing to ensure that it is not at the bottom of a laundry basket. 

Establish breakfast, lunch, and snack choices in advance. For that picky eater, you want to ensure that you complete an inventory of their favorites. Sometimes that extra stop or Instacart order can be worth it.

If the previous night was complicated, stressful, or late, be prepared to prompt more and know that the extra time contingency may be needed. Can the morning routine be adjusted so that there are fewer steps? This could be the day for an extra 15 minutes of sleep.

To survive Monday mornings, explore ways to focus on structure with a dash of flexibility. Discuss your thoughts about the new structure with your family. Even the little ones can have input and ideas. Assess strengths and challenges after a week or two and then consider small adjustments. May you meet your goal of less stress and more peace!! Survive!!

If you feel like you aren’t sure how to best support your child, teen, young adult or yourself, Child and Family Solutions Center is here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get started with supportive services.