How I Make Mornings Good for My Son
These days Lucas skips the stress and rises and shines. Here’s how we did it.
Every parent of a child with ADHD knows that mornings are a minefield. Kids with ADHD are notoriously deep sleepers, and for those whose meds interfere with their ability to fall asleep at night, mornings can be especially difficult. Sometimes just getting your kid to finish a bowl of cereal can feel like climbing Mt. Everest. Putting on both socks is like a triathlon. I know, because I’ve been there.
I’ve done my fair share of yelling and losing control in the mornings with my nine-year-old son Lucas, followed by the usual avalanche of guilt at what a terrible mother I am. But for the last few months I’ve been implementing a few ideas to help make mornings less stressful. I am so happy with the outcome. Here’s what we’ve been doing:
> Play a favorite “wake up” song. Lucas is hard to pull out of slumber, but if I bring my phone into his room and play a YouTube video of “Welcome to the Jungle,” it usually brings him to life.
> Use an evening and morning checklist. The checklist is written in permanent marker on a dry-erase board, and my son uses a dry-erase marker to check off each item as it’s accomplished. Something about having his tasks broken down into smaller components and being able to physically note the accomplishment of each task really appeals to him. The evening board is important, because it contains some of the important tasks that make mornings easier, like…
> Prepare clothes and school supplies the night before. Lucas uses his evening checklist to set out his clothes and pack his backpack with homework he needs to bring to school. Then there is one less thing to worry about in the morning.
> Wake up 15 minutes earlier. I hate this. I’ve always been the kind of person who gives myself exactly enough time to get ready. I spring out of bed when the alarm goes off and fly around the house until the second I leave. Not one moment is wasted. However, after nine years of parenting my sweet boy, I know nothing slows down a kid with ADHD like telling him he needs to hurry. So I drag my butt out of bed a few minutes earlier, wake him up earlier, and allow him those extra 10 to 15 minutes to stare into his cereal bowl while his brain slowly comes to life.
> Speak softly. This is the hardest one for me. I’m naturally noisy, a yeller by nature. I’m learning from Lucas that if I keep my voice calm, he responds so much better. Yelling at him, as he tells me, makes his brain go haywire.
> Use a timer. We use the one on the microwave, because Lucas can watch it count down and see how much time he has left for a task. We don’t need to use this every morning, but if Lucas is having a particularly tough day, I will offer a reward for beating the clock or a consequence for not beating it. Our currency of the moment is Minecraft. If Lucas’s Minecraft is at stake, it is remarkable how quickly he can finish getting dressed!
If I can remember to do these things, our morning almost always go off without a hitch. The hardest part, as it seems to be the case with pretty much everything in parenting, is having enough self-discipline to help my kid.