“My goal went from Seth getting good grades this year to him making the bus at least once a week. Talk about lowering the bar!” -Joanna, exasperated parent
Seth is a funny, energetic sixth grader who loves to play basketball, video games, and annoy his younger siblings. When he is not cracking jokes or displaying his generally silly behavior, he is busy looking for his lost shoe or his school agenda book. Joanna tells us that she can make jokes about it with her friends, but on the inside she is at her wits end. She wakes up bracing herself and savoring her cup of coffee because she knows the minute Seth wakes up, the frantic morning will begin. She will be dragging him out of bed, reminding him 12 times to come eat breakfast, get dressed, and brush his teeth before heading out the door to the bus. Most days, all of the nagging turns to yelling and they spend 15 minutes searching for a missing shoe before they end up missing the bus anyways.
Does this sound familiar to you? How many times have you returned home from bringing your child to school to discover his homework folder sitting there on the table?
Hectic mornings filled with nagging, no actually begging your child to just get out the door for school is so common in families affected by ADHD. The morning can be the most challenging time for a variety of reasons. First, you are on a strict timeline that doesn’t allow for getting distracted while eating breakfast or putting on shoes. Second, if your child has ADHD, you are probably walking them through every step and backtracking to complete those steps. Simple tasks like eating, basic hygiene and packing school belongings can be filled with yelling, nagging, and then finally just doing them for your child so you can get to school on time. And if you are like Seth’s mom, Joanna, you get to do the exact same agonizing routine the next day.
We hear similar stories day after day and while you may feel like you are the only household with a morning routine of nagging, yelling and chaos, we are here to tell you that you are not alone. After listening to thousands of similar stories, we have worked with those very families to develop strategies that work. They are simple, easy to implement and reduce morning stress. Know that if you implement just one of these strategies, you will save yourself some valuable time and energy. Implement them all and you can have some peaceful, systematic mornings.
- Complete as much as possible the night before school. Pack the lunch, the backpack and everything that needs to go to school WITH your child. Start by doing this with your child and then transition to giving your child independence to doing it on his own. In the morning, the only parts of the routine that need to be completed are getting dressed, basic hygiene and breakfast. This adds onto your evening routine, but it is WORTH every extra minute you have in the morning. When all of these things are complete, have your child place them right next to the door, or if you are driving to school go ahead and have your child put them in the car.
- Communicate with the ADHD Brain in Mind. Remember that your primary goal is to get your message across to your child. If your child has ADHD, there is a good chance he is missing many of the morning directives you are giving him. Whether his attention is drawn elsewhere or he lost in the world of hyperfocus on a preferred task, your goal is to get him to hear what you are saying. He is not purposefully ignoring you or being lazy about his routine. His attention is simply placed elsewhere. Make eye contact and be in close proximity when speaking to your child. Then make sure your child is engaged in learning the morning routine by asking instead of telling. Try out, “What do you need to do next?” instead of simply telling him to go brush his teeth.
- Create Visual Reminders. If there is an item or task that is consistently forgotten, a well placed sign can help. Signs taped to the breakfast table, to the door as you leave your house or a post it on a jacket are creative examples that cue even the most forgetful child. If signs like these haven’t worked in the past, have your child create a bright, bold, sign that you can attach some string to and hang from the ceiling. Hang it in a spot where your child literally gets hit in the face by the sign. How’s that for a reminder?
- Streamline the Morning. To minimize distractions between tasks, have your child complete everything he can in each room before he moves on to the next. For example, before he leaves his bedroom he should get dressed, put his pajamas in the dirty laundry and collect any belongings he needs to bring with him for the day.
Take a look at the difference these four simple strategies have made in Seth’s family’s life.
Joanna wakes up with a sense of peace as she pours her cup of coffee. She rises from the breakfast table to go upstairs and wake Seth. While she is in the other room waking up Seth’s brothers, he comes out of his room, completely dressed with his reading book in hand. He walks downstairs, pops a bagel in the toaster and gets the peanut butter out of the pantry. He sits down, eats his breakfast quickly on a placemat that he made that says “Put Your Plate in the Sink!” After breakfast, he actually puts the plate in the sink and heads into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He streamlined his morning by putting another toothbrush in the downstairs bathroom so he wouldn’t get distracted on his trip back upstairs. After brushing his teeth, he puts on his jacket, picks up his packed backpack and heads outside. He shoots baskets in the driveway until Joanna signals it’s time for him to head to the bus stop on the corner. Seth’s morning went from a hectic hour of nagging and prompting to complete independence and a sense of achievement. Joanna’s morning went from an aggravated frenzy to a systemized daily routine.
Have trouble with all of your routines? Visit us at www.navigatingadhd.com.
Navigating ADHD Inc. is a solutions based approach to supporting families whose lives are affected by ADHD. Co-founders Tracey Bromley Goodwin, M.Ed., ACC and Holly Oberacker, ATR, LMHC merged their unique expertise and ADHD focused experience to develop proven methods for managing the symptoms of ADHD.
Their multi-sensory approach addresses the behavioral, organizational, and executive functioning needs of those affected by ADHD and is documented throughout the award winning Navigating Your Guide to the Flip Side of ADHD and they are the creators of ADHD ARTGuides™, specializing in the “how” of bringing art into ADHD treatment. Navigating ADHD Inc. has a learning and support center on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with satellite services on Nantucket and virtual services worldwide. Holly and Tracey offer presentations to parents, educators and clinicians around the country.