Helpful Tips for Reducing Morning Stress | Autism Parenting Advice
Autistic children often struggle with getting ready in the morning. There is a lot of anxiety and choices to make for most children in the morning. For children with autism, routines are essential. But what is a parent to help their child in reducing morning stress?
Sticking with morning routines for your kids can make all the difference in your and your child’s day. In particular, having a strategy for the morning that includes all of the necessities in a specific order can do worlds of good for getting your child off in a healthy way. These helpful tips for reducing morning stress start the night before. Keep reading to find out more:
Some ideas on what you can do the night before:
Map of tomorrow: Build a schedule the night before and post it. If you have the room and money, paint one wall with chalkboard paint and write up the schedule on there the night before. Going over the next day’s routine with your child can lower their anxiety about the day ahead and may even make bedtime less strenuous.
Get lunch ready: Again, the more preparation you can have, the better. As you undoubtedly know, food can be a sticking point. Put together lunches together, so there are no surprises, and everything is precisely the way they need it. Maybe let your child choose a special snack to give them some input in the process as well.
Get books and bags ready:
Everything you can do the night before will save you stress in the am. Put together a bookbag with everything that your child might need. Include a special item, like a stuffed animal or sticker, if they want it, to remind your child that you are thinking of them all day.
Put clothes together in advance:
Make part of pajama time into time spent putting out clothes for the following day. That way, there will be no issues regarding a favorite shirt or pants that are in the wash. Lay shoes out in advance so that there isn’t the early morning dash of looking under couches and chairs for the right pair.
Create a reward system for getting things done:
Consider small rewards like a favorite food, stickers, or points toward getting something special that can be collected when following routines properly.
Bedtime can be particularly tricky for some children. The best way to prepare is to start winding down early and create a specific routine to follow. The Zebra even offers some printable schedules for nighttime (and for the morning) to help your child remember their routine and lets them check things off for a feeling of accomplishment.
Children 6 to 13 generally should try to get around 10 hours of sleep per night. If the alarm goes off at 6:30 am then (for example) you’ll want to try to get your youngster to sleep around 8:30 pm. If possible, then, except if necessary for communication, keep your children off of screens for at least an hour before bedtime, as the stimulation and light from screens can upset melatonin levels. Reading to your child before bedtime is an excellent way to get them off to sleep.
If your child has trouble sleeping, sometimes white noise or pink noise generators can be an excellent way to get them down. A cooling fan (with its corresponding white noise) can create a calming bedtime atmosphere. Weighted blankets are also another great choice to help with sleep. Click here for more tips on helping autistic children sleep.
In the morning
If possible, take some time for yourself before your child wakes up. Have a cup of coffee or read a little to center yourself before the morning rush.
Then try to wake up your child gently. While you may realize that transitions are difficult for your child, there is no more abrupt transition than sleeping to waking. Try to make it as gentle as possible by gradually creating a little more light and maybe some calming music. A cuddle and words of encouragement are useful here, as well.
Here is where the morning routine can start in earnest. If you use a chart or magnet board, you can check off tasks in order. Try to start with making the bed as it is an excellent way to connect with order and responsibility. Then follow your morning routine in a specific way, for example: put on clothes, eat breakfast, brush teeth, get ready for school.
The best breakfasts will be high in protein, so try to see if your child will eat eggs or yogurt in the morning. Hydration at this time is also essential.
Reducing Morning Stress
While following the routine is optimal, it is crucial to stay flexible. Things will happen that will throw off your perfect track, and while your child might have a tough time with change, remaining composed and keeping as much of your plan as possible on the rails will make mornings less stressful.