Ask the Experts

Morning Routine Ideas for Even the Slowest, Most Distracted Child

If getting your child out the door for school is a daily battle of nagging and hovering, consider trying unconventional strategies like leaving his toothbrush by the kitchen sink or letting your child sleep in his clothes for the next day.

Q: Mornings with my ADHD son are a nightmare: how can I get him to stick to a morning routine?


A: Morning routines for kids are complicated and exhausting — especially when your child has attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) — because they involve deadlines like being at school or on the bus by a specific time. When it comes to devising a morning routine that works for your child, consider what motivates them and what they can or can’t handle on their own.

I worked with a family that set two alarms for their kids — one next to them and one across the room. Even with all that noise, an adult would still have to go into the room to wake the kids. Then they would go downstairs, eat their breakfast, and then trudge back upstairs to get dressed and brush their teeth. That routine was ineffectual in no small part because everyone had to do everything upstairs together and then all go downstairs together.

Caregivers of children with ADHD have to let go of old conceptualizations of how things are supposed to be, and be open to thinking in different ways. Maybe you let your child take his bath, get dressed in his clothes for the next day, and go to sleep in those clothes. He is clean and it makes the morning easier, so who cares if he’s slightly wrinkled? Maybe he gets dressed downstairs. The toothbrush could live in the kitchen near the kitchen sink so it’s easily accessible after breakfast.

I knew one boy who, once he was up, had breakfast, and brushed his teeth, was allowed 10 minutes of TV while he got dressed. When your child is fully dressed and ready for school, consider allowing them to do something they enjoy. Here’s hoping you get to that point!

[Download This: Free Sample Schedule for Reliable Family Routines]

The content for this article came from Sharon Saline’s webinar titled “Build Life-Long Executive Function Skills in Your Child with ADHD.” You can watch the replay here.

Updated on November 12, 2019

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