| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 9/1/2021|
As adults, we all have the matured perspective that what we do in the morning sets the tone for the day. This is quite a prominent fact. Our morning routine will often linger in our emotions and continue to inspire us throughout the day. We also know if we start out our morning watching Netflix or YouTube videos, it will take away that energetic stamina from our inspiration and momentum from our productivity, so we consciously steer clear of morning activities that will dim our spark for productivity. To combat that further, we take care of ourselves in the morning with personal hygiene and delightful nutrition to rejuvenate ourselves physically and mentally. The temptation will always be there, but we know what to do to not let the sheer wish for pure entertainment and relaxation mode get the best of us. This is a core skill that students who need executive function support need to develop. They need to learn how to use structure, organization, and discipline as an internal locomotive for self-motivation and self-management. The surest way to instill this into your child's psyche is institutionalizing a morning routine with these four timeless ingredients:
1. Discipline: Alarm Clock
Implementing and teaching your child how to set up and use an alarm clock will be one of the most powerful skills they will learn. The earlier you habituate your child to this foundational discipline, the better they will process self-regulation and self-discipline so it won't come as a shock during their middle school years when they have more homework and more teachers to deal with. The alarm clock promotes independence and responsibility. It is also a stepping-stone tool to help the child process what structured time looks and feels like. It will teach key skillsets like planning ahead and time estimation. You can ask your child questions while teaching them how to use an alarm clock like school starts at 9AM, what time do you think you should wake up to have enough time to eat and get dressed? If they say, 8:50AM. That is a teachable moment where you explain to them the concept of cushion time where you have to give yourself plenty of time to shower, eat, get materials ready etc. In this way, the student understands clearly getting ready means taking care of all of their personal needs mentally and physically, not just being awake is enough. Key point: Ensure your child understands being ready means you are ready in every way possible.
2. Structure: Exercise/ Get Fresh Air
New research suggests that exercise can alleviate ADHD's symptoms and boost concentration (Western University, 2021). Therefore, it may behoove your student to do some type of simple movements in the morning. This can easily turn into a family workout that lasts about 15 minutes where everyone does stretches together. It is a fun way to wake up, and it is quick. If your student is not an exercise enthusiast and you do not have time to guide them through a routine, then simply breathe in some fresh air by eating breakfast in the garden or a 15-minute walk with the dog outside will be sufficient. Besides mitigating ADHD's symptoms, morning fresh air and exercise are a great way to teach your student about living a balanced lifestyle and moderation in everything. This is about building healthy habits that will transform over time into lifelong skills.
3. Grooming: Shower
Personal grooming and cleanliness run deeper into a child's psyche than we realize. As young students mature and develop into a keener sense of their personal identity, they will compare themselves to others, especially their outer appearance. This psychological and physical development will happen automatically whether your student is being guided towards a healthy concept of self or not. Thus, it is better to proactively teach them how to foster self- confidence inside and out. The best way to accomplish this goal is to educate your student about the right approach to personal grooming on a daily basis. Do not be mistaken: The message you are teaching is that tending to one's personal appearance is needed for self-esteem, confidence, and professional success because it shows self-management and self-love. You are not teaching the student that physical appearance is the ONLY thing that matters. It is of vital importance that you educate your child the distinct difference between the two attitudes towards personal appearance. Kids can be very confused about this in the modern age of glorified beauty standards. On average, teens spend more than seven hours a day on their devices (CNN). Kids nowadays live passionately in the Instagram world when unsupervised by adults and school is not in session. Basically, their world with their peers is dominated by images of external appearance. As inexperienced consumers of technologies within the digital landscape, students often internalize unhealthy messages about body image and self-worth, so an early education from home about self-love and self-confidence is the best antidote.
4. Nutrition: Breakfast
As the old adage pronounces, you have to put fuel in your engine. Being a high-performing student requires a lot of fuel, whether students realize it or not. However, they feel it right away when they didn't have anything in their stomach and they have problems concentrating on that Math test in their first hour class because of staying up way past their bedtime. Bottom line: They will feel it. Attending to meals on time, but especially breakfast, is a great habit-forming regimen to include in your child's morning routine. Nutrition helps with cognitive function, and it properly teaches the student how to prepare themselves mentally and physically to perform at their highest level. If they get a head start now, they will be ready by the time they live in their college dorm. The long-term benefit is that students will understand how to care for themselves holistically when they get older and must produce high-quality work each and every day. They will then carve out a healthy lifestyle for themselves by understanding how to meet all of their individual needs on a daily basis.
Structure and discipline are the fundamental pillars to help a child develop, hone, and maintain healthy, lifelong habits related to strengthening executive function skills. Early practice and implementation of a morning regime will deepen a sense of independence and self-regulation. This also will help students have a smoother transition between middle school and high school where rigorous academics and school daily schedule become more packed. Of course, parenting stress will also be much reduced when the student has had enough early practice to firmly grasp daily routines and can self-manage through the ebbs and flows of daily life as they move from childhood to adulthood. Early practice is an irreplaceable foundation.
Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed.
I am a licensed professional educator, executive function expert, former tenured high school teacher and college instructor with 16 years experience. I am also a student success designer. I enjoy recognizing the missing puzzle in the student's learning and personalizing that solution in a language that is unique to that student. I love the creative challenge of inventing a new language
for every child.