Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: How Can I Manage the Morning Rush?

Getting kids out the door in the morning is a perennial parenting challenge — and ADHD doesn’t make it any easier. Our organizing coach explains how to help your kids help themselves for a smoother start to the day.

Q:Mornings are tough. We’re on time or close most days but only with a Herculean effort to keep our daughter on track. I struggle with wondering how much we’re enabling versus supporting. How can we help her be more self-sufficient?” —ADHD Mom Wishing For Good Mornings

Hi ADHD Mom:

Ah, mornings. They’re always stressful because, unfortunately, they come with a deadline. Which is why my rule of thumb is this: Anything that can be done the night before should be! Since I don’t know exactly where the breakdown is (does your daughter have a hard time getting out of bed, or does it take her too long to pick out her clothes?), here are a few of my general suggestions to help create a smooth morning routine.

  1. Lay out clothes and toiletries for the next day. This includes everything from accessories to undergarments to shoes and coats to toothbrushes and soap. Take all of tomorrow’s clothing out of the bedroom and leave it either in the kitchen or the bathroom closest to the kitchen. By removing clothing, you’re also removing the temptation for your daughter to make time-wasting trips back to her bedroom.
  2. Get ready for breakfast. Set out dishes and utensils. Dispense vitamins or other medications. Pre-measure cereal. You will shave minutes off the morning routine if you have everything ready to go the night before.

[Free Download: Routines for Morning and Night]

  1. Pack lunches and snacks. To make mornings less hectic, prepare school lunches the night before. Have your daughter help you and build it into her evening routine.
  2. Set up a launching pad. This is a designated place in your home to keep the belongings that go back and forth to school everyday. A launching pad removed the stressful “I can’t find my notebook” or “Where are my gym sneakers?” from the morning equation. Pick a heavily trafficked location; it could be by your front door, in the mudroom, or outside your daughter’s bedroom. Backpacks, completed homework, library books, and musical instruments should all be stored here.
  3. Make a reminder checklist. List items such as keys, lunchboxes, homework, instruments, and sports equipment that you know your daughter will need. (Pictures work well for younger children.) Tack the list to a corkboard or clipboard and hang it right by the launching pad for her to see.

In the evenings we have the luxury of time, which allows children to make decisions without feeling rushed and pressured. For a 10 year old, that’s a wonderful way to promote self-sufficiency.

If you’re looking for more tips and tools for smoother mornings, please check out my book, What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management? A Parents’ Guide to Helping Your Child Succeed. I devote an entire chapter to creating calm and cooperative mornings for everyone!

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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