Getting ready for school – tips from 2 mums of ADHD kids


By: Associate Professor Melanie Porter, ADHD Australia Board Member, and Flynn Vamos

Get ready! Back-to-school is upon us! We’ve all enjoyed our fleeting, 2-week break from lunchbox-packing, chauffer-driving and homework demands. But with the start of Term 2 means winter uniform (more buttons, more accessories and dreaded stockings), colder mornings (sleepier kids who don’t want to get up), and with that, overwhelm and exhaustion. What holiday?

For parents of kids with ADHD, school mornings can be stressful. Usual complications and curveballs include:

  • forgetfulness, “Where did you put my water bottle, Mum?”
  • last-minute reminders, “I need to wear orange- it’s Harmony Day today”, and
  • sometimes tears and school avoidance, “My tummy hurts.”

As parents of children with ADHD, we have found that a consistent home routine is the key to making those chaotic school mornings run more smoothly.

Research has found that establishing predictable, morning routines can reduce stress and anxiety in children (and parents). So it’s worth taking the time to plan out a morning schedule, which can help your family start the day on a good note.

So, from 2 mothers, here are some of our morning hacks that we hope you will find helpful in easing the back-to-school transition.

  1. Take 5 mindful minutes to set the day right
    We can all relate to the “Five more minutes!” request, and in fact, it might really benefit your child to give them that extra time. Encouraging them to take an extra five, mindful minutes to take some slow, deep breaths, meditate or do some yoga stretches can help them regulate those big emotions and even help to improve their focus.
  2. Use visual cues
    Visual cues can also be a helpful way to help your child anticipate the day ahead and boost their memory. Something as simple as laying out their school uniform the night before so that it is visible as soon as they wake up. You can implement a visual routine schedule, like a to-do list on the refrigerator, and use incentives, such as stars or tokens that build towards a reward of their choice. This can help children predict and navigate their morning routine more effectively (and ease that morning rush).
  3. Consistency is key!
    Consistency and predictability are particularly important for ADHD kids. So having ‘spots’ for everything, like their schoolbags, lunchboxes, shoes and socks, may also help your child get ready more efficiently. If your child does take medication, encourage them to take it at a regular time such as after breakfast to help establish a routine with taking medicine.
  4. Build time perception
    Teaching time management is essential for children with ADHD. Using the oven or phone timer or visual countdowns can help children build their awareness of time and keep on track with their morning.
  5. Give them some responsibility
    Delegating a simple morning chore can help enhance children’s sense of responsibility and independence. Assigning a job to your child like setting the breakfast table or feeding the pets, can foster a sense of responsibility and free up a few extra minutes for you.
  6. Look after yourself
    Most importantly, prioritise yourself. Remember the airplane safety advice? Fit your life jacket first. If it means setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier so you can take some moments for yourself before the household wakes, you are already starting the day on the front foot, which helps to set a positive tone for the day ahead.