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4 tips for reducing morning stress when your child has ADHD


Michelle Stein

posted in Parenting

Navigating the morning rush with young children can be incredibly stressful. Getting everyone dressed, eating breakfast, making sure lunches are packed and backpacks are ready to go, putting on shoes and jackets, and finally loading up everyone in the car is no easy feat. And when your child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Well, it can add a whole other layer of stress to an already time-crunched routine.

“Children with ADD typically have a hard time waking up, staying on task and navigating the complicated rituals that families go through in the morning,” Dr. Ed Carlton, founder of the Carlton Neurofeedback Center and author of the book The Answer, said in a news release. “It’s a recipe for stress and conflict, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

My 6-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD in January. Although he does take medication to help manage his symptoms, the following four tips offered by Carlton have definitely helped our mornings run more smoothly:

1) Establish a routine. Sitting down with your child and talking about expectations for a morning routine can go a long way. (And using a chart or a checklist can serve as valuable visual reminders.) Simply giving your child more time to get ready in the morning is never a bad idea, either, Carlton explained. “You can account for difficulty waking up and trouble focusing by setting earlier bedtimes or waking up earlier,” he said. Reducing morning distractions —  like TV or video games — can help your child stick to this routine.

Before school started this fall, we talked with our first-grader about what we expect of him in the mornings. If he wakes up and it’s after 7 a.m., he’s allowed to go downstairs, use the bathroom, get dressed and grab something to eat. (He has an alarm clock in his room.) But if it’s before 7 a.m., he needs to try to go back to sleep or lie in his bed quietly. Establishing these parameters has helped him know what needs to be done and when.

2) Prepare as much as possible the night before. “Reduce fights about what to wear and what to eat in the morning by deciding the night before,” Carlton said. “School lunches, snacks and water bottles can be packed in the evening and backpacks can be ready to go.”

This is a big one for my family. Each morning, there’s already a snack ready to grab for my toddler, my pre-schooler’s and first-grader’s backpacks are ready, and my first-grader’s lunch is packed — plus all of their clothes are set out. Doing the prep work the night before eliminates so many steps in the morning, when my son has a more difficult time staying on task. Plus, it’s less rushed and less stressful for everyone.

3) Make breakfast count (bonus points if it’s portable.) Keeping a selection grab-and-go foods that are also good sources of protein can be a life-saver. Things like yogurt, boiled eggs, protein bars, oatmeal and cheese sticks are all winners. “The goal is to get some nutrition in your child’s tummy before they head off to school, so get creative if it helps,” Carlton said, in the news release.

We’ve found out the hard way what a breakfast of sugary cereal does to my son. Not. Fun. For anyone. Oatmeal, a microwave breakfast sandwich or yogurt are all much better breakfast options for him.

4) Set aside time for an energy release. “They can go for a swing, dance in the living room, play with the dog, whatever is fun for them,” Carlton said.

I’ve found that setting aside a little time before school to release energy helps my 6-year-old with ADHD. (It can also be used as an incentive if morning tasks are done on time.) My son loves watching videos on GoNoodle, or really, dancing along to any fun song for kids on YouTube.

It’s worth noting that (at least in my experience) there will be good days and bad days when it comes to morning routines with kids with ADHD — even if you follow all of these tips. Still, this advice can serve as an excellent starting point for children who are newly diagnosed. It’s done wonders for us.

If you have a child with ADD or ADHD, what’s worked for you?

Images by Michelle Stein, iStock

The post 4 tips for reducing morning stress when your child has ADHD appeared first on BabyCenter Blog.

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