Make school mornings less stressful for families of kids with ADHD — Ryan Wexelblatt (ADHD Dude)


Brady: “My Dad thinks he’s helping me by constantly checking on me and telling me every step I have to do but all he’s doing is making me more anxious about getting to school on time and that’s when I blow up. I’d rather have a detention for being late then him making me anxious every morning and us fighting.”
Ryan: “So you have a choice here. You can choose to make your brain be flexible and learn some things to make mornings easier and less stressful, or you choose to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Brady was a 15 year-old ninth-grader when I met him and his parents. His parents shared a common narrative I hear from families.

Brady often missed the bus in the morning because he couldn’t get himself ready on time, which then caused his dad to have to drive him to school. Brady’s mother was a high school teacher so she left for work that’s it was completely on his father to make sure he got to school on time. Brady described how his father would regularly Rush him and make sure he was doing every step of his morning routine which as Brady articulated, increased his anxiety and often cause blow ups, resulting in him yelling at his father and saying things he didn’t mean. Brady’s father, was understandably frustrated by going through this routine most mornings. His mother felt caught in the middle because she often had to act as the arbitrator when discussions about this came up. Brady did take ADHD medication everyday, however it didn’t kick in until he got to school.

Like most families I see, they had tried counseling. The therapist focused on Brady and his father’s communication, asked them to use a lot of “I statements” yet didn’t offer anything in terms of improving their stressful mornings. An online ADHD coach they worked with suggested the typical hanging up checklists or Brady carrying around a checklist which didn’t work for him, or the majority of families I meet.

Brady knew his morning routine yet he lacked a sense of urgency. When his father’s frustration would go up, Brady’s anxiety increased and the blow up would occur.

Like many teenagers I meet, Brady assumed that coming to see me would be yet another therapy session. I clarified for him during our first meeting that I could help make life at home a little less stressful for him and his father, who had a good relationship.

I taught Brady’s parents how to help move him from prompt dependence to independence through using declarative language around his morning routine. I taught Brady how using a visual timeline of his morning routine with clocks underneath could help him learn to conceptualize time and initiate his own sense of urgency when he sees that he is not on his timeline. Most importantly, I helped Brady incentivize his morning routine by showing him that he could have free time in the morning if he and his parents would implement these strategies.

As with most families, there was a small learning curve to implementing these strategies. The first time Brady had free time in the morning to play on his phone before the bus came he felt a sense of pride when he realized that he was getting better at conceptualizing time and becoming less prompt-dependent.

When I teach families the strategies I teach in Executive Function Crash Course for Parents Webinar Series I always focus on what the kid that will gain from utilizing the strategies, more free time.
Mornings at home became less stressful for Brady and his Dad. Most importantly, Brady felt a sense of accomplishment which in turn helped him to be more receptive to help. I love hearing that these strategies have made a positive impact for families but what I love hearing even more is kids feeling a sense of pride in their newfound accomplishments.
  • Webinar 1 teaches you how to use language to move your child from prompt dependency towards independence.
  • Webinar 2 will teach you how to create scaffolding to help their child get through daily routines more independently.
  • Webinar 3 teaches how to help kids learn how to feel time and transition from preferred tasks (such as video games) to non-preferred tasks.
  • Webinar 4 provides you with the tools to teach your child how to persevere through non-preferred tasks creating incentives that are congruent with his/her brain development
  • Webinar 5 teaches how to create scaffolding around using a planner and calendar both for academics and other things.
School doesn’t start for a few months.

You can use this time of the summer to implement strategies that can make life at home a little easier while simultaneously helping your son/daughter realize he/she is more capable of being independent than he/she realized.

Your other choice is to go through another school year hoping that things will change with maturity or that talking about these issues in therapy will create some kind of improvement in executive functioning.
One of these choices you can do on your own time, is more cost-effective and produces results. The other, is based on wishful thinking.

Learn more about Executive Function Crash Course for Parents: