Q: “How Do I Avoid Rushing and Stressing Out My Teen Every Morning?”

Beat the morning rush by collaborating with your family, setting non-negotiables, and letting things go.

Image Source/Getty Images
Image Source/Getty Images

Q: “Mornings are stressful for my entire family. My teen son, who has ADHD, doesn’t seem to notice that the clock is ticking. I drop him off at school, but I risk running late for work because of how long it takes him to move along. I end up rushing him most mornings, which I know makes him anxious and inevitably stresses all of us out. How can we break the cycle?”

The morning rush is hard on many families, especially when attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is present. (I should know, as a parent with ADHD raising teens with ADHD.) Rushing your child, even if it’s well-intentioned, undoubtedly adds to the morning stress and may influence how the rest of their day looks.

ADHD is associated with time blindness, so it’s not unusual for your son to have difficulty “sensing” the passage of time, which may help explain morning delays. That said, it doesn’t excuse being late to school, and, in your case, being late for work. Try the following strategies to make mornings as stress-free as possible:

[Free Download: The Morning Survival Guide for ADHD Families]

  • Collaborate with your teen. You and your teen both want stress-free mornings. Talk to one another (preferably over the weekend) about how to make that happen. Examine your morning routines and think of changes that could address problems. For example, does your child get stuck on a certain step in his morning routine? Could he benefit from using a device like the Time Timer to “see” time passing? Help your child visualize, in his mind, how his morning will play out in granular detail. Create a plan to ensure follow through.
  • Set non-negotiables, like the exact time your car must leave the driveway to make it to school and work on time. Be sure to address must-do items on his morning routine, too – like having some form of breakfast prior to school. (If sit-down breakfasts eat up too much time, consider preparing on-the-go meals.) Clearly communicate those non-negotiables – and consequences – to your son.
  • Let things go. This may be difficult but consider adjusting expectations around what your child should cross off their morning routine, especially if some items don’t directly affect you. It might mean that they get to the car on time, but don’t have their hair (or teeth) brushed and are still in their pajamas. So be it.

Morning Rush and ADHD Teens: Next Steps

The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “Anxiety in Children: Overlooked Signs and Effective Supports” [Video Replay & Podcast #401],” with Caroline Buzanko, Ph.D., which was broadcast on May 19, 2022.

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