Ask the Play Therapist: Trouble Waking Up for School

Dear Anthony,

I am a single mother with two very active children. My youngest son is 5 and my oldest son just turned 8. Getting ready for school used to be so easy for both of my children, but over the last few months my eldest has been giving me such a hard time about getting up. Our morning routine has gotten so difficult and there are days when we barely get out the door and to the bus on time. I have tried so many different ways to get my son up for school. Rewards charts, getting to bed early, making his favorite breakfast, nothing has worked! What would be your advice on how to handle the situation?

Thank you so much!


Tired Momma of Two


Dear Tired Momma of Two,

Waking up early in the morning can be a difficult task for people old and young alike!

It sounds like you have tried many different ways to make it enticing for him to get up in the morning. As I read your letter, the first thought that came to my mind was--why doesn’t he want to get up for school?

You mentioned that this difficulty has started “over the last few months”. I would encourage you to find time when you both are free, sit down with him in a comfy place in your home without others present, and ask him if everything is okay. When you do so, come from a place of warmth and concern. Tell him that you have noticed that it has been tough from him to get up early and wanted to see if everything was okay. Ask him what he thinks the reason is. Maybe there are issues at school. Maybe he has been sneaking his favorite toys into bed and playing with them all night. Or maybe he has just been having difficulties sleeping at night. By asking him his thoughts, you are connecting with him, and giving him a chance to open up. From there you two can collaborate on ways to help him get up in the morning. If there are concerns with school or other stressors, then explore with him ways you could support him (i.e. talking with the teacher if he is getting picked on, getting a tutor if it is test anxiety) and identify ways he could advocate for himself as well.

Always remember to come from a place of warmth and concern, rather than a place of judgement and reprimand! Best of luck!

With Regards,