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Why Mornings Are the Worst Ever for ADHD Families

Mornings are hell. We hear this on a daily basis from parents of children with ADHD who struggle to get out of bed on time, eat something healthy, get dressed efficiently, and pack up the day’s necessities before the school bus arrives. Here, ADDitude parents share their biggest morning hurdles — and we offer them a virtual hug.

12 Comments: Why Mornings Are the Worst Ever for ADHD Families

  1. I have just discovered this resource and OMG, this is definitely my routine every day and man it’s exhausting. My 5 year old started kindergarten this year and that’s when I really saw that his ADHD was bad and that he had something else to go with it, but I had no idea what. Yesterday I learned that ODD is the second, but I’m still lost on how to make our days go better, smiles. Nice to see I’m not alone though, but I’m still ready to pull my hair out.

  2. @ caedenwilliam – April 28, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Thank you so much for the suggestion! This article was both helpful and very frustrating. I’m so very grateful to know we’re not the only parents who CANNOT get a handle on morning and bedtime routines. I also wanted to thank you for explaining what works for your family. We are so desperate for some sort of reprieve from the constant struggle! Our twins are now in 6th grade and they’ve barley improved past a 2nd grade level of capabilities. And it feels so hopeless because we know they know what to do, it just feels like they’re choosing not to. There is NO sense of urgency or desire to complete basic tasks to get themselves ready for the day or night. And we just cannot yell anymore, it is disheartening for both of us (we never were yelling parents/ people until school started) and the yelling is really affecting the older brother. So yes, we will try the verbal timer! I’m also going to try and be completely ready when they get up so I can walk behind them to either race against them or ensure they’re getting to the basics: dressed, eat, teeth, packing up computers & bookbags, shoes and coat on. Ugggg, I can’t believe it seems as if we basically have to “heard cats” until they’re moved out of the house! We are just 1/2 way through their school years and they’re no better than when they were in kindergarten! I guess we were fools to believe we could have kids that would be functional by the time they hit 12 years old. *sigh*

  3. It was nice to know I am not alone in the struggle but I was disappointed that the article had no viable solutions. Thank you to caedenwilliam for the great ideas! We have timers and Alexa but have not been consistent with them. I also like the idea of the stickers. He is pretty competitive so doing these things with him might work well.

  4. This was one of our biggest challenges of the day. My son is 11 and he has ADHD. He also struggles with low appetite with his medication. But in order for him to comply and take care of his morning routine he needs the medication in him. So what I’ve come up with is I make him a protein and high fat milkshake. He usually wakes up ravenously hungry. So I wake him up about an hour and a half before we need to leave. While he’s still in bed I give him his meds and the milkshake. Then I leave him alone with his iPad. His meds take almost exactly one hour to kick in. So in an hour he’s ready to cooperate and the we get out the door mostly on time without fighting.

  5. My biggest challenge is getting pout the door on time. As I tend to surf the net, try to do 1more thing, or try to decide what to wear,eat for. lunch. And honestly just getting out of bed is hard for me… o I tend to snooze the alarm and think I have more time than I actually do. Which leads me to feeling rushed, late for work, and a feeling of dread as I’m late yet another day😔

  6. Gosh, this is my life in the morning! I’ve only just discovered this site and am so happy to finally read and hear about other people who are in the same boat as me. I feel like the constant nag. The morning really is the worst part of the day with my son. I feel it is damaging our relationship as I end up endlessly shouting at him, taking things away from him, none of which he remotely cares about! Reward charts sometimes work and sometimes don’t. It just sets everybody off on the wrong foot for the day. We also have a battle most days about taking his medication. 😕

  7. Am I 10 years old? Because these are my mornings, with me as the ADHD kid and my boyfriend as the exasperated parent. Still, this helps me feel a little less crazy.

  8. Mornings used to be so rough for my son as well. He is now in 2nd grade and we have discovered that he is need of a tonsil and adenoid removal surgery. What we once thought was just ADHD related behaviors, we now think is more sleep exhaustion related. He has also been on a non-stimulant (Intuniv/Guanfacine) for a year now because he could not handle the side effects of Adderall (aka “Mad”derall). What makes him feel his very best in the morning is a shower! It is an effort for sure to get him in there, but he wakes up slowly and it is very relaxing for him. He then will put his clothes on and come downstairs for breakfast and be happily ready for his day. This is DRASTICALLY different from previous years. If you haven’t tried this – give it a shot! Also, let an ENT check out the tonsils, the doctor said it is way more common than you think and can cause behavioral problems in itself.

  9. I feel both better and worse reading this article. I can relate to most of the scenarios above so I feel better that I am not alone. I feel worse in that there doesn’t seem to be a solution for the morning battle. I feel like the nagging, raised voices, taking away privileges will damage my relationship with my son over time and that is what concerns me. He’s only in grade 2 – we have ten more years of this!
    Given that ADHD brains don’t operate in a linear fashion, would it help to mix up the routine and make it different each morning? I’m getting desperate here!

    1. I used to have the same problems with my 8 year old son. His mother started waking him up at 5am (giving him 2.5 hours to get dressed and brush his teeth) because it was so difficult. She tried letting him watch T.V for a bit, playing music, etc. and nothing worked. I also have ADHD and I could not understand why she thought giving him MORE time was going to help since i know for me personally more time just means more distractions. With ADHD we are not motivated unless it is urgent. I wake up ten minutes before i need to leave for work so that i jump out of bed in a panic and get ready as quickly as possible – leaving no time for distraction. The problem is that my 8 year old does not panic over being late for school – he does not care. So, we ended up buying these talking count-down timers that Russel Barckley suggested. Now, i wake him up, his clothes having been picked out the night before, we set the timer for two minutes and time ourselves to get dressed. (we still both do not start until we hear it say “one minute left”). If he beats the timer he gets a sticker on his chart, but if he does not beat the timer he gets a practice worksheet to complete after school (we chose this as the consequence because he needed the extra math practice at the time. but i assume anything will do). We figured out that if he missed the timer and knew he had the worksheet, he gave up and did nothing for the next twenty minutes so we had to add that for every 3 minutes he goes over (the timer will begin counting up once it has hit zero on the countdown!) he gets another worksheet.
      Then we brush our teeth together, so i can be sure he is actually doing it, and we get three minutes to take our medications and vitamins, and put on our shoes and coats.
      This has worked brilliantly. We have been doing it for a little over a year and I think it has been about 2 months sine he last had to get a worksheet. Unfortunately, his mother feels guilty timing him -she views it as a punishment rather than a tool- and gives him too much leeway. He is very smart and he has learned that she is not serious about it, so he does not respect the timer with her. I spoke to him about this an he said that while the timer can be frustrating, he actually prefers getting ready that way. Nobody nags him (and if he is nagged, its by “the timer lady”, not us!) and he doesnt feel like he keeps messing up. so he ends up going to school in much better spirits, and i get to go to work without aggravation. I should note that though we bth have pretty bad anxiety as well, the benefits of this process have not exacerbated it. I dont know that it will work for everyone, and the timers are about 50$ each, but for us it has really saved our mornings! To be fair, if I happen to not beat the timer, he gets to assign me a 3rd grade math worksheet (which he finds very enjoyable) and I must attempt to complete it in the new difficult way they teach math these days! We end up having fun with it.
      this is a link to what seems to be a much less expensive version of the timer we use:

    2. I feel the same exact way. I need to get her to school, I need to get to work and I need to get ready for work and all my energy is focused on getting her to get dressed. On the weekends, vacations or days she doesn’t need to go to school, we don’t have this struggle and she is a joy to be around. But when her father and I both work, mornings and evenings are all the time we get to spend with our kids during the week and sadly it is also the most stressful time to be with her. It breaks my heart and it is so frustrating that we have to go through this on a regular basis. I know that it is her ADHD that is causing this and she isn’t trying to be difficult, but the fact remains we have to be somewhere at a certain time. I have not tried to vary the routine, most of what I have read seems to promote staying on a routine and schedule but that certainly doesn’t seem to make our mornings any easier, just repetitive!

  10. I knew I wasn’t alone! I can relate to everything in this article! All of these scenarios happen all day, everyday!

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