I had the pleasure of speaking at the CHADD San Fernando Valley Parent Support Group on Wednesday, February 28, held at Bridges Academy. This group is warm, lovely, inclusive, and a wonderful resource for parents of children who are challenged with ADD/ADHD. For more information about CHADD, visit chadd.org
Below are the strategies and tips I shared for helping children and teens go from a hot moment to a cool calm during a very challenging time of the day: the morning routine.
Morning Routines: An effective morning routine can help make mornings manageable. If your morning feels positive, it is likely the rest of the day will feel positive too!
#1) Figure out what time you need to leave your home in order to get your kids to school on time. And then add on an additional 15-20 minutes for unexpected situations. Your stress level will go down if you give yourself, and your child, some built in leeway just in case.
#2) Prep the night before as much as possible. Mornings often feel rushed and shortened because you need to be out the door by a certain time. So no matter how tired you are at night, you will probably will feel less frazzled than you do in the morning. After you put your child to bed, try to quickly and efficiently take care of mornings tasks such as preparing lunches, packing backpacks, and picking out clothes. You might find that prepping at night makes mornings a bit easier.
#3) Build in time for your child to wake up. Many people find mornings a struggle because they just can’t wake up and get moving. For children and teens with ADD/ADHD, this can present an even bigger challenge because ADD/ADHD often comes along with trouble getting to sleep which in turn makes it harder to wake up. To help your child in the morning, build in additional time to wake up. One option is to wake your child up 20-30 minutes before they actually need to wake up and get moving. That gives them time to slowly wake up. Some kids with ADHD are extremely sensitive to touch and sound so you will want to pat them very lightly and speaking softly. You can also let a bit of light into their room as well.
#4) Cut out distractions. Nothing throws a morning into chaos like distractions. But what is a distraction for some kids is not a distraction for others. For instance, some kids like to watch TV while they eat breakfast. Does that help them stay calm and eat? Does it give you time to get dressed? Then keep it in the routine. But does it stop you from getting out of the house on time due to your child’s inability to stop watching TV? Then take it out of the routine.
To make a morning go smoothly, think of your child’s routine as a “to do” list. For example, #1 – wake up. #2 – shower. #3 – get dressed. #4 – eat. #5 – get backpack, shoes, jacket. #6 – get out the door.
Distractions take away from completing what needs to get done. Any unproductive distractions can be saved for after school. So you aren’t saying, “no” – you are just saying “yes” for later!
#5) The Breakfast Conundrum. Breakfast is, of course, a nutritional priority. However, breakfast also comes with a lot of challenges. First, will your child eat breakfast? And if so, do you have time to make it? Some options are to prepare breakfast before your child gets up, or while they are in the shower or getting dressed (which assumes you are already showered and dressed.) If being around other people is difficult for your child in the morning, let them have breakfast in bed while they are waking up. Another option is breakfast in the car: a cup of fruit and a bagel, a waffle, a smoothie, granola/yogurt parfait. Something to keep in mind is that many ADHD kids who take medication are not hungry once their medication kicks in. So it is very important to get food into them before they get to school.
#6) Shoes!! The putting on of shoes can be a major bottleneck in a morning routine. Shoes seem to give kids a lot of challenges. One option is to have kids put their shoes on in the car or they can put them on once they get to school.
#7) Figure out a plan for getting multiple family members ready for the day. Look at every family member’s routine and then determine a game plan. For example, one child showers while the other eats breakfast. This can also prevent morning arguments between cranky people by decreasing interaction.
#8) Stay Calm (Serenity Now!) Kids look to parents for their emotional stability. They take their cues from their parents for how to react. If you find yourself about to lose your cool, take a few seconds to step away and regain your composure. Try to speak calmly. Remind yourself that the morning routine is a finite time and it will be over around 8am. Another option is to plan a family meeting and discuss how you would like the mornings to be more peaceful. Have all family members contribute ideas and work out a new plan that works for your family.
#9) Try to keep your weekend routine the same as the weekday routine. This can be a difficult strategy to accept because you are probably craving the chance to sleep in on a weekend morning. But for a routine to become, well routine, you need to stick to the schedule every day. Sticking to the routine makes Monday mornings easier for everyone.
#10) Reward good behavior – stickers or points for completing tasks. Rewards can be video game time or time alone with mom and dad.
If you would like to talk more about creating a more positive morning routine, or about the challenges you are facing as a parent, please give me a call at 310-849-6751 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am here to help!