Ask Lizzie: How to avoid morning meltdowns

The Current is proud to welcome columnist Lizzie Assa, founder of The Workspace for Children, a parenting strategist, play expert and mother of three who lives in Marblehead.  Send your questions to Lizzie at

Dear Lizzie,

I’m having a hard time getting my elementary schooler out the door in the morning. She’s always saying that she doesn’t want to go to school. How do I make this less painful for everyone?

Dear reader,

I write this to you after a morning that left me feeling like I’d lived a thousand hours… My kids have a hard time going to school sometimes, too. 

You are not alone in the struggle. Each morning, there are kids across Marblehead refusing to get out of bed, not wanting to get dressed, crying, begging and negotiating to just let them stay home. It’s frustrating, and stressful and can make you feel like a failure. But having a child who struggles in the morning usually does not mean something is wrong at school or in your parenting. 

Parenting strategist Lizzie Assa

When children struggle with daily routines, I tap into my parenting strategist mindset. Let’s analyze what’s really going on for our kids and explore strategies to guide them through these challenges.

Think about it from your child’s perspective. Home is comfortable, safe and filled with your loving attention. School requires navigating complex social dynamics, noise, schedules and demands from teachers. Of course kids will crave staying in their cozy cocoon!

The goal here is to support them in getting to school. Validate their feelings and set the limit that they are going to school. 

Trying saying things like:

“You wish you could stay home today and instead, you have to go to school. I hear you. I wish I could stay home all day and cuddle with you too!”

“Today is a school day. It is okay to cry while you get ready. Sometimes I feel like whining and crying in the morning too.” (Something magical happens when you stop resisting their urge to cry. Welcome it, allow space for it. They’ll move through it much faster.)

“You know how to get dressed all by yourself, but today feels hard, so I’ll help you! What goes first, shorts or your sweatshirt?” 

Other ways to support your child with the home-to-school transition:

  • Send an email to the teacher. Let her know that your child had a hard morning.  
  • Talk to your child the night before school and make a plan. “This morning it was so hard to go to school. You cried and you didn’t want to get dressed. How did you start to feel better? Let’s make a plan for tomorrow morning.” 
  • Do everything you can do the night before. This will reduce decision fatigue in the morning for both you and your child. You will feel more patient and able to ride the wave of your child’s emotions when you aren’t running around looking for shoes and keys! 

Keep your eye on the goal of getting to school. Make getting ready easy on the hard days. A little goes a long way. ⁣As parents, it’s our job to empathize with their wishes while also holding the boundary. Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge your own feelings of guilt or anxiety when your child doesn’t want to go to school. All parents deal with this at times. Don’t let it shake your confidence.

You got this! 


Lizzie Assa, parenting strategist
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