Ask the Experts

Help for Sluggish ADHD Mornings

“We have a morning routine, but getting through it is a real struggle. My seven-year-old son either gets distracted or takes too much time brushing his teeth and eating breakfast. We’ve tried rewards and timers. Do you have any other suggestions?”

It is discouraging to start the day in disorder. Children with ADHD struggle with transitions, and the morning wake-up is among the most difficult for them — and their parents. You are on the right track with routines, incentives, and timers. Use colorful signs, with the steps of the morning routine written on them, as cue cards in the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Point and say, “Stay on task, what is next?” Initially, parents may “shadow” their child as he goes through his activities each day, eventually letting him do the last step on his own, then the last two steps, and so on, until he assumes control. If your child takes medication, you might give him a dose an hour before he gets up, so it takes effect by the time he wakes.

Some families practice morning routines on the weekend during the day, when everyone is alert. Point out the “hard spots” where the “team” may be led astray. Success will depend on knowing what motivates your son. A “rewards menu” can list incentives. Consequences for getting off-track may mean a nutrition bar in the car instead of his favorite breakfast. Don’t be discouraged — in time you will establish a routine that he will follow!

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