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.

Waking Up My ADHD Family - Mornings are the worst
A child with adhd struggles to wake up and get out of bed and ready for the day

Waking up Children with ADHD

“Mornings are definitely the worst part of the day. It’s difficult to get my 8 year old out of bed. We open his window to let in some cool fresh air, and I spritz lavender room spray before heading into the shower. Some things work for a while but then the novelty wears off and we have to try something new.”

“My son suffers from attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), a mood disorder, and ODD. In the mornings it’s so hard to wake him up. I call his name and shake him. I’ve tried setting alarms for him, but he will just sleep right through them. I have even tried spritzing his face with water; nothing seems to work.”

“My daughter struggles to wake up. I have made a daily schedule for her to follow, but she just falls asleep. It doesn’t matter what her schedule says if she is sleeping. I need to sit next to her to keep her awake and give her step-by-step directions for her morning routine until she is really awake.”

“It’s a workout waking up my 6-year-old twins who have ADHD. I have to stretch them so they aren’t too jiggly in school. My son will eventually get up if I play with him using a large exercise ball, but my daughter refuses to get up at all, so I have to lift her down from the bunk bed. I do stretches and yoga on her but she stills tries to run back to the top bunk and hide under her blanket if I turn away for a second.”

“My daughter has ADHD as well as autism with sensory issues. She’s always tired in the morning, and often her clothes bother her. Dressing can take anywhere from ten minutes to 45 minutes to not getting dressed at all, lying crying on her bed throwing her clothes at the door. I get up at 5:30 am so that I can wake up the girls at 6:15 and get us out the door by 7:30. I used to want to let them sleep as long as I could, but I couldn’t take the chaotic panic of rushing everyone to get ready. They don’t necessarily pop up, but at least we start the process. Even though they have to get up earlier, at least they can lie down on the couch and eat and watch something for a little bit before they really have to move.”

[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have Inattentive ADHD?]

ADHD Medication Strategies in the Morning

“In the mornings I try to lightly wake my 7 year old with ADHD & ODD — just enough for her to take her pill and then go back to sleep for a bit. If her medicine has already kicked in when she wakes up, the morning goes smoothly, but this doesn’t work every time, and there have been many rough mornings. I have been late to work, missed important meetings and deadlines, been put on anxiety meds, and lost friends because of the difficult days. She has walked out of the house and taken off down the street; trashed our garage; destroyed her clothes; ripped out bows and ponytails; flung her breakfast across the kitchen — all because we asked her to get dressed or put on her shoes. By the time we clean up some of the wreckage and wrestle her into her clothes and then to the car, the medication kicks in and she gets to school and is a perfect angel for her teacher.”

“My son is very small for his age, so breakfast is important. It’s a tricky balance: If I give him his medicine too early he has no appetite and won’t eat. If I get distracted by his disruptions and don’t get his medicine into him on time, then I know that’s setting him up for a rough morning at school until it kicks in.”

“Our son is completely unable to follow his morning routine until his medication kicks in. He is in hyper-drive; making loud noises and purposefully annoying his brother. Thankfully, he is never late for school because he can’t stand the thought of being late. No hygiene will be done, but he makes it to school.”

“When the medication hasn’t kicked in yet, just getting dressed takes my daughter forever. There is no TV, reading, or anything remotely fun for her to do until she gets dressed but she still runs around, rolls around in bed, and laughs and giggles when we ask her to get dressed. We have tried gently reminding, pleading, rewarding, punishing, having things taken away – nothing makes any kind of impact. Explaining to her that we need to get going and out the door because we have to be on time for work too makes zero impact as well. It is a waking nightmare every morning.”

[Free Sample Schedule for Children with ADHD]

“Our son is distracted by everything without his medication, which I don’t give him until breakfast because he has no appetite otherwise. It’s a constant battle to refocus him on the few tasks he needs to complete. It seems, sadly, that the only motivator is raised voices and taking away privileges. I always feel awful after dropping him off as it makes me so sad to have every morning go like this.”

The Struggle to Stay on Task… and in Control of ADHD Symptoms

“My son’s a restless sleeper, but when it’s time to get up for school, he’s in such a deep sleep that I struggle to get him to wake up. The more I moan, the more aggressive he becomes. When he’s eventually sitting down with breakfast in front of him, it can take up to half an hour before he even starts eating it. I have to leave an hour and a half for stuff that could theoretically be done in 20 minutes. I hate being the constant nag; it makes him angry with me and is not a good start to the day.”

“My 10-year-old daughter and I are both ADHD combined type. We always say we are going to get up earlier, but we never do and always end up with only 30 minutes to get ready for work and school. Once I am up, I can pretty much stay on task to get myself ready, but while I am getting ready I have to check on her continuously. Some days, it takes 20 minutes for her to put on her shoes. Some mornings are worse than others — because she wants a certain hairdo or she can’t find the comfortable pants she wants to wear. One morning, we were late because I lost it and made us both cry, so we then had to apologize and hug so that we didn’t go through the day feeling sad.”

“My 9-year-old son can’t seem to remember what he has to do every morning, even though it is the same every day! But worst of all, I will think he is getting dressed, putting on his shoes, etc., but then I find out he is not done! I say, ‘What have you been doing all this time?’ Oh, he picked up a ball and started bouncing it; looked at something in his drawer. Who knows? How hard is it to get dressed, and why can’t he understand the concept of ‘Don’t do anything else but get ready — it’s almost time to leave!’? I feel like I have to check up on him constantly to make sure he is doing what he is supposed to be doing.”

“We struggle daily to get ready for school in a timely manner. Every time I check on him, he’s still not eating and not dressed. He’s putting on his shoes and taking them off over and over again because the Velcro strap isn’t perfect; his socks are on his hands instead of his feet; he’s using his toothbrush as a drum stick on the bathroom sink; he’s staring off, toothpaste tube in his hand. Oh my! But, through the struggles we grow and learn! One day we’ll get it right… I hope.”

Tell us: What is your biggest struggle in the morning?

[Nix Morning Chaos with This Two-Part Routine]