Minimize the Stress at the Start of the School Day
For many families, getting out the door each morning is often a struggle. In these moments, it is clear why time management is important. In particular, for families with ADHD, school mornings can feel like a nightmare:
“Where is your backpack?”
“Why didn’t you brush your teeth?”
“Don’t you have gym today?”
“Why didn’t you pack your sneakers?”
Mornings that are frequently filled with stress are an incredibly difficult way to get started, with effects that can linger well into the day. Time management in the morning is crucial. There is no easy fix for sure, but here are some ideas to help get the day started with a bit more peace:
The Night Before Checklist
First, get as much done in the evening as possible. Using a checklist ensures that everything gets completed:
- Backpack packed, check
- Lunch made, check
- Clothes laid out, check
If your child wants to sleep in school clothes, heck, why not? If this subtracts from morning anxiety, it’s a net positive. Next, make sure your child physically interacts with the list, checking off tasks or moving a paper clip as each item is complete.
If your child cannot read yet, pictures will work. “But shouldn’t they able to remember by now?” Exasperated parents ask me this all the time. Memory is one of the executive function deficits that is often present with ADHD, making it harder for folks to recall even simple routines. Using a written list (a visual cue) and a physical component (a tactile cue) creates pathways for the brain to learn and remember.
The Morning Checklist
Then, do the same for the morning routine:
- Get dressed, check
- Eat breakfast, check
- Brush teeth, check
Next, make sure to include an incentive for when the list is complete, something simple, such as television time before the bus comes. School can be so difficult for kids with ADHD – a little stress-free time before they launch out the door can be quite helpful and a motivation to get through the routine.
Time Management: The Passing of Time
Another helpful tip is to make passing time visible. Perception of passing time is another executive function deficit that often is part of the ADHD brain. Some people with ADHD do not experience time the way neurotypical people do. Sand timers are excellent tools to show the passing of time. The visual representation of the top glass emptying while the bottom glass fills may be more effective in helping your child understand that there are 10 minutes before the bus comes, 5 minutes before the bus comes, as opposed to verbal reminders, the ones that get louder and more panicked as the time is passing. A Time Timer is another product available that provides a useful visual representation to help make the concept of passing time, less abstract and more concrete.
Create a Launch Zone
Lastly, make sure your home has is a “launch zone,” otherwise known as the “take me with you” pad. This is the area, preferably by the door, where everything that is going out of the house is placed, preferably the night before. Include on the evening checklist the placement of items on the launch pad:
- Backpack on the launch pad, check
- Gym bag on the launch pad, check
The more that can be completed at night, the less to do in the morning. And every bit of stress that can be eliminated from the morning, no matter how small, will contribute to a positive start to the day for EVERYONE.