Getting your kids ready for school is a work in progress in many North American homes. It may resemble a three-ring circus for some, a regimented drill team for others, or somewhere between chaotic and orderly.
Ideally it becomes easier as the kids grow older, become more empowered and get themselves ready without much fuss. But there can always be wrenches thrown into the routine as the focus and time-management skills waver. And for families who have kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), there can be more challenges than most.
For those families, Dr. Ed Carlton says there are ways to help better manage the morning.
“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,” says Carlton, founder of the Carlton Neurofeedback Center and author of the book “The Answer”. “It’s a recipe for stress and conflict, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Carlton gives four tips to make your morning smoother when your child has ADHD or ADD:
Establish a routine. Have a family meeting and make some every-morning task assignments. Give your child more time to get ready. “You can account for difficulty waking up and trouble focusing by setting earlier bedtimes or waking up earlier,” Carlton says. A visual organizer with a checklist can help children with ADD or ADHD manage tasks. Reduce morning distractions like TV or video games. “Setting these boundaries at the family meeting will reduce complaints,” Carlton says.
Prepare the night before. Getting organized starts with doing everything you can in advance. “Reduce fights about what to wear and what to eat in the morning by deciding the night before,” Carlton says. School lunches, snacks and water bottles can be packed in the evening and backpacks can be ready to go.
Make breakfast portable. Give your child a selection of grab-and-go nutritious foods that can be eaten at the table or taken in the car. Encourage sources of protein – boiled eggs, yogurt, protein bars, oatmeal or cheese sticks. If you’re dealing with a picky eater, consider adding non-traditional choices like leftovers from dinner, sandwiches or chicken nuggets. “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 says.
Reward with an energy break. A little exercise before school can help a child who is bursting with energy. Make time in the morning schedule for a 10-minute energy break. It also can be used as a reward if their morning tasks are done on time. “They can go for a swing, dance in the living room, play with the dog, whatever is fun for them,” Carlton says. “By all means, catch your child doing things right and making progress toward an easier morning.”
“As you get into a routine, get feedback from them and be willing to alter the routine,” Carlton says. “The idea is for everyone to get the day off to a good start, and it can be done with fun.”