Creating self-sufficient tweens is a challenge for every parent. But for a parent of a child with ADHD – it can seem impossible. It is a lot of work, but with patience and time it will not only ease your workload in the morning but more importantly, it builds up your child’s abilities, habits, and self-confidence. The best way to help them be self-sufficient and foster success is to set them up for success. Make it really hard for them to fail, and that easy success will help them create the habit, and create a sustainable change in their morning routines, and lives.
10 Tips to help your ADHD child become successful at being self-sufficient before school:
- Get to bed early! 9-13 year-olds need at least 10 hours of sleep a night. If getting to sleep is difficult, try a very low dose of melatonin an hour before bedtime for a couple weeks to get the body use to this bedtime. Enough sleep will make these new routines and responsibilities easier for them.
2. Have them review their schedule and prepare their materials for their day (pack their bag) as well as choose and lay out their clothes the night before. It is hard to make decisions when your brain is not completely awake – make those decisions the night before so all you have to do is put your clothes on.
3. If your child takes any ADHD Medication in the morning, have them set an alarm 1/2 hour before they are supposed to wake up to take that medication. Then go back to sleep until their “real” alarm goes off. (When starting these new morning routines and responsibilities it may be easier for you to do this. It is a crucial step we don’t want to miss, so until this is all a formed habit, set your alarm to go up and have them take the medicine.)
4. Give yourself enough time for success and failure. Being late is the worst outcome, it is discouraging and makes this change seem insurmountable. If we don’t make it to #10 – it is ok, we can work for that tomorrow – but we didn’t fail. If they are struggling – stay in the supervisory role, even if that means standing behind them as they complete each task. Manage their time until they are able to.
5. Help them set their own alarm clock. If your child is hard to wake the Sonic Bomb, or any of Sonic Alert style of alarm clocks for hard to wake children are the way to go. The clocks all have a vibrating bed shaker that when placed under the mattress or pillow vibrates the bed when the alarm goes off. It also has flashing lights that offer other sensations other than the super loud alarm to help your child successfully wake up on their own.
6. Plank! I know this seems like a weird one, but trust me on this.
Have them plank for 30 Seconds and start building up to 60 seconds. This is crazy and magical. Planking turns on many different parts of your brain because it engages your entire body in the exercise.
7.Breakfast: Work on 2 or 3 types of breakfasts that they can make on their own. Toast and cereal are the obvious choices, but as they advance start them on eggs and sausage as well when they have gotten the routine down. A 9-year-old can easily make eggs and sausage on a frying pan unassisted, but supervised, with a little practice.
8. Make a “to do” list, laminate it if necessary. Set it at their breakfast seat so they know what is expected, and how much more they have to do.
9. Put on the list: Brush teeth, brush hair, get shoes on, coat if necessary, and have everything else right by the door (backpack, lunch, gloves, hat, etc.)
10. Let them have “free time” or “Screen time” when all of their tasks are complete. This is their goal. Even if it is 5 minutes, as long as they get to it, or are working towards it – they are learning to complete their tasks before play time.
This may seem like a lot for them to be able to do, and you may need to slowly add new responsibilities every couple of days or weeks as they master the previous. But they will be able to do these things, and it will make them more self-confident, self-sufficient, and successful as they master each task and realize all of the things they can do on their own. You are giving them keys to success as you allow them to control their morning. If you are positive, consistent, they will be able to do all of this on their own in time.
As the mother of two 9-year-olds (One with ADHD) and a 12-year-old who has done this for 3 years now, I have children at each stage of self-sufficiency. I only hear my 12-year-old as she says goodbye as she leaves for the bus, so I am not sure if she has chosen to watch tv or play Xbox before school. But, I do see her frying pan from the sausage she made. As for the 9-year-olds, one has 40 minutes of free time, and the one with ADHD has between 5 and 20 minutes depending on the day. She is keeping up with her sisters and that is what matters. She sees that as the success, and since screen time is very scarce and precious in my house during the school year, using it as a goal to reach for has been very successful. Use what works for your children. Forming good morning routines and habits is life changing – even for adults.