Think about all that can go wrong: The backpack may not be where it was supposed to be or the dog may have literally eaten the homework. Suddenly, a child remembers he or she is supposed to bring something special to school or flat out refuses to wear a raincoat when it's monsooning. The list is endless.
When you picture a child with ADHD, a few images may come to mind: A kid who doesn’t ever seem to sit still. A child who can’t stop interrupting the teacher or goofing off in class. A C- and D-student who never manages to finish a single homework assignment.
Symptoms like these are easy to spot, but they’re also much less common for girls with the disorder. And that’s why their parents, teachers, and others have a harder time knowing when they have it, says Michael Manos, PhD, head of the ADHD Center...
For ADHD kids, these scenarios can actually reinforce low self-esteem and negative self-talk like "I'm unorganized" or "I'm always late" or "I always forget."
Marked by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattention, ADHD affects about 5% of children aged 6 to 17, according to the CDC.
"The school morning routine is one of the most difficult areas for ADHD children," says Betsy Corrin, PhD, a child psychologist at Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford University School of Medicine. "The morning is time-pressured and involves a lot of steps. And such stressful situations don't bring out the best in many ADHD kids or their parents who often have ADHD as well," says Corrin, who runs a training group for ADHD families.
It doesn't have to be this way. Creating a step-by-step personalized action plan can help mornings go seamlessly 99% of the time, she says. And while these tips were designed for ADHD children, they can work for non-ADHD kids as well.
Step 1: Outline the Steps
"This is very individualized," Corrin says. "Lay out the steps and anchor them by time." For example, on a school morning, your child should get out of bed by 7 a.m., be dressed by 7:25 a.m., have breakfast at 7:30 a.m., pack their book bag by 7:45 and be out the door by 8 a.m. That's five steps."
Step 2: Define How Many Reminders There Will Be for Each Step
"For example, say, 'I will come in twice and that's it, and you must be out of bed by 7 a.m.,'" she says. Index cards can also help. "Hand a child an index card with each step written on it and ask them to give the card back when he or she has completed that step or task."