Getting Ready for the Day with ADD
If your child has Attention Deficit Disorder with symptoms that are well-controlled by medication, morning might be an especially stressful time. While medications can be long-acting and effective for 10-12 hours, they can take a couple of hours to get up to speed in your child's bloodstream. Until that time, it is hard for him to focus.
Morning is particularly busy with waking up, getting everybody ready, and heading out the door to start the day. A recent study that examined this was reported at the U.S. Psychiatric & Mental Health Congress by Frank A. López, MD, of the Children's Development Center in Winter Park, FL, and F. Randy Sallee, MD, PhD, of Ironshore Pharmaceuticals & Development, Inc., in Grand Cayman, the Cayman Islands. They concluded that there was inadequate morning symptom control with medications used for Attention Deficit Disorder. This led to a time that was incredibly stressful for children and their caregivers. What can you do in the morning to circumvent this lack of symptom control for ADD? Plan a morning routine.
Strangely enough, your morning routine will start the night before. Taking a half an hour before bedtime can make the early morning so much more pleasant. It can also be used for family time!
The night before:
*First, decide what everybody will be wearing and get each person's clothes laid out. This includes outer clothing, underwear, and socks. This is a good time to check the weather for the next day to make sure that the clothing is acceptable.
*Next, make lunches or get the lunch money together. Lunches go in the fridge where they can easily be found. If a note from school needs to be signed, now is a good time. Since you are working with food, do any preparation that can be done for breakfast. For a cereal breakfast, put the cereal, juice glasses, and bowls out on the table. If you are having muffins, get the plates down and the muffins on the table. Pre-scramble the eggs and heat them in the microwave in the morning. Do what you can do the night before!
*Gather all items that need to go to school or to the office. Check to make sure that all homework is in the bag with any notes that should go back to school. Place everybody's bags all together. A space near the door is ideal. Make sure that coats, hats, and gloves are ready in winter.
*Bathe before bed. Get all morning grooming items placed where you can find them.
*Stop your electronic use and get to bed. Children need at least 8-10 hours sleep. Their bedtime will depend on when they need to rise. Set the alarm clocks.
*If you have a particularly slow-riser, you can always put them in clean sweats the night before and have them wear the sweats to school. That sounds strange, but if it promotes morning peace, it is worth considering.
In the morning:
*Adults should get up about half an hour before the kids and be ready when the children get up. Adults need to direct the morning routine, and that is difficult if you are still trying to get ready. When you start to get ready, put some cheerful "wake up" music on that everybody can hear. Keep this same song for every day. That will be a subliminal clue for the kids that it is almost time to get up.
*When it is time for the kids to get up, be cheerful. Make an effort to stay positive, even though it is difficult. Let them know how much time that they have. Call out the times in 10 minute increments. "We have an hour until we leave." Offer to help anybody who is struggling.
*Give them a written schedule that is divided into 10 minute increments. Here is a sample. Yours will vary.
-10 minutes – up, use restroom
-10 minutes – get dressed
-20 minutes – eat breakfast
-10 minutes – dishes up and faces washed/teeth brushed
-10 minutes – gather things and out the door
Parents in the study reported that they felt "constantly stressed." The day started out with more punishment than praise, which led them to feel like inadequate parents. Nobody wants to start a day that way, not the parents, and certainly not the children. By building an evening and morning routine into your lives, you will be doing the whole family a favor.
Don't give up if you encounter resistance at first. It is tough work to get things rocking and rolling down the right path. You could sweeten the deal. Research has shown that kids with ADD respond better to rewards than punishment. It is the way that they are wired. Reward the kids for each morning where they are out the door on time. Start with a daily reward, and then fade the reward out gradually. Save it for those times when they get the evening routine done really early and the morning routine is as "smooth as silk!"
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