Fall Family Fun

August at home our first Fall! I’m not sure they had Fall leaves in Murmansk. I think it went from a week of summer right back to winter!

Maybe it’s because Autumn is my favorite season that I love thinking of all the Fall Family Fun there is to have. And it may be why I’m able to think more positively and hopefully about family activities this time of year. For the most part we always had a great time doing Fall family fun adventures. August liked being outdoors so much which helped things a lot. So I thought I’d offer some ideas of fall family fun which might be good ways for your family to enjoy some time together before winter drives you all indoors (depending on where you live!)

Here is a list of 50 wonderful Fall family activities for you to try with all the information you need to pull them off. I could create a list but it would include all these activities and it wouldn’t be nearly this thorough! My personal favorite is going to an actual pumpkin patch to get your pumpkin and doing everything else that goes with that. The hayride and corn maze; the apple cider and caramel apples! The boys always enjoyed doing that also. For August the scary haunted corn mazes were his favorite. He had no fear; I should have picked up on that!

We could almost get August to participate in raking leaves just for the benefit of jumping in the piles. But jumping was so wild with him it was like no raking took place so it was kind of a wash. But looking back, anything that was an engaging family activity makes a fond memory.

That is the take-away from the change of seasons and what can be the fun of Fall. Some of these ideas are small, like reading a book. Some are more involved like going camping. But the key is everything you do together as a family is a memory. And as I’ve said before, when times might not be so memorable, having these to think back on may make a huge difference for you and your RAD kiddo. Bring them up when to your child when you feel the Grand Canyon sitting between the two of you. Share the memory and watch the Canyon disappear.

Make sure you take advantage of your Fall family fun time. The weather is great and it can be done easy and most of the time for not much money. Enjoy the views and make some memories!

August whacking at things with sticks, his favorite thing to do!

Until next time,

Shannon

Setting Up A Family Contract

Just the title of this blog may make you shudder a little, particularly if you have teen RAD kiddos. It’s important to find ways to set boundaries and establish rules and maybe when ongoing conversations are hard, a contract can help. A contract or agreement or plan can take away some of the drama or confusion surrounding expectations. So setting up a family contract where you get buy in from the entire family can make for a less stressful family life.

When August was in elementary school, we would have battles over clothing. Our first family contract came about clothes! I couldn’t deal with it anymore so our agreement became this: what he wears has to be clean, it has to be occasion appropriate, it has to be weather appropriate. After that, I didn’t have a say. Unless it was a major event or holiday. Then I pulled rank.

We certainly had a contract when he got his first phone. He had time limits. There was a GPS on it and he knew that if I ever looked for him on the find my phone app and he had turned it off the phone was gone.

Now let me clarify. These aren’t the same as chore charts or weekly behavior expectations where kiddos get stickers every day they set the table. For one, RAD kiddos are all about control and immediate gratification which makes these tools not so effective. These are broader agreements covering bigger issues. Which should trickle down into the everyday activities. That’s the hope!

“A little bit” may have a different definition in our world!

There are some great samples out there that I found which you can customize to work for your family. Here are a bunch. The idea is to come to an agreement before the fight over the subject can begin! I can’t promise this will solve every issue. But if you approach each topic with respecting your kiddos opinions and giving them some control over the outcome (within reason), then you are more likely to get buy-in and ultimately compliance.

The key then is, how do you approach these conversations? Of course, the expectation is that your RAD kiddo will try and ask for the moon. And will want to control everything while agreeing to nothing. That’s the RAD way, right? I think the important part it to make sure it’s a low-stress conversation that’s focused on the goals, not the process. If it feels like rules being imposed, you’re going to get immediate push back. Call it a contract, call it a plan, call it an agreement; whatever will sound the best for your children’s understanding.

Then when you enter into this agreement, you all have to have “skin in the game”. This can’t just be you telling your kiddos what you want them to do. You have to make promises of what you will do also. Remember, it’s called a “Family contract” and all the members of the family have to have responsibilities to make it work. So you have to think about what you’re going to own up to, what you’re going to promise (no yelling, some levels of freedom, getting that family pet, etc.).

This can be the start of great family conversations and healthy interactions. Once you set the stage, let everyone know that anyone can initiate a family agreement. It puts everyone in the mindset of leveling the playing field and treating each other equally and with respect.

Until next time,

Shannon

Taking Care of Siblings

May 1, 2001. The day we got the call with our court date in Russia to finalize our adoption of August. May 3, 2001. The day I found out I was pregnant with his brother. Yes, it was every bit that connected. And yes, we were shocked and happy and terrified. My statement to this day is, “Two kids in seven months. Wouldn’t change it. Don’t recommend it.” But what it meant is that after barely having a chance to get to know August, I would find myself taking care of siblings.

First camping trip. Four and five months old.

By the time his brother was born, August had a pretty good ability to speak English. It included comments when his brother would cry like, “I told you we shouldn’t have picked this one.” Because like him, August thought all children were adopted. And like a lot of older siblings, he regressed in some ways. So we spent considerable time cleaning up peed on toys and sheets in his room. That felt really angry on his part. But we were yet to get his RAD diagnosis so we just thought it jealousy.

Every once in a while, something truly weird and magical happened…

As they grew (they are almost four years apart) I had hoped they’d get along and become the best of friends. Well that’s not what happened. There was the time August colored his brother’s bare bottom with a black sharpie when he was a year or two old. There was constant manipulation. August loved the outdoors and being active. His brother was into reading and music and theater. So there weren’t many things they shared an interest in. They did find some common ground in video games. Though inevitably August’s temper would bring an awful ending to most gaming sessions.

Then there was the size difference. From about the time his brother was two (which made August six), I started reminding August, “You’ll always be the older brother, even if you’re not always the bigger brother.” August was and still is, small for his age. We don’t know if that genetics or his early trauma. But his brother was born into some big person genetics so he moved past August in height pretty early on. We worried that would be a problem but August’s sense of self is amazingly healthy.

I think this is maybe 11 and 15. The height difference is way worse now.

But I was not always able to take care of their relationship and foster it the way I had hoped. And I wasn’t able to protect his brother from what August unleashed when he was raging due to RAD. It wasn’t easy to contain his anger which would move throughout the house as he would spin out of control. And sometimes August had to capture a disproportionate amount of our attention which would leave his brother with much less of our time than he deserved.

I wrote about this last Spring but today I want to talk about what to do to take care of those Siblings. How do we make sure that they don’t become collateral damage in the ongoing war for the healing of our RAD kiddo? Sometimes it seems like after doing battle with our RAD kiddo we have nothing left. Not for our spouse, our job, our home or the other children who also want our love and attention. The same as if you had a child with cancer or another chronic illness, whatever it is that forces more attention on one child, creates tremendous guilt for what you are not able to give to the others.

I was going to put together my ideas for what to do to help siblings cope with having a RAD kiddo the home, but this article hits all the buttons and puts it together with a bow. So click the link. Do it.

The important thing to remember is when there’s a child suffering trauma in a home, everyone must deal with it. Consider the stress and anxiety you are feeling and your other children are also feeling that to some degree. Consider what will help them cope and get ahead of their needs and feelings as you are doing your own self-care.

Until next time,

Shannon

Winning Family Meal Time

August decided for about a week he was a cat. Ate all his dinners off a plate on the floor. Then one day he stopped. Never did figure out why. But every meal was three members of the family leisurely eating our meals and August plowing through his food like he hasn’t eaten in a month. Or like he may never eat again. Some days there would barely be any space between the edge of his plate and his mouth. And it never changed. And a half an hour later he’d swear he was starving. So I was in a constant search for something I could do that would mean winning family meal time.

In today’s over-scheduled world, just getting the whole family around the table at the same time is a triumph. I remember growing up that when my sister and I both became teenagers, everyone at the dinner table became more and more rare. The kitchen floor would be littered with notes from me to mom and mom to dad and my sister to dad informing each other of our whereabouts and pick up times. Remember this was pre-cell phones folks!

When the boys came along, we tried to be good about having regular family dinners. It was important for us to have that time together. We made a big deal about August eating his food and he would enjoy our attention. But very soon after getting comfortable with us, food became part of his battle for control.

I remember one night that we had some sort of meat and August didn’t want to eat it. He put a bit in his mouth but wouldn’t swallow it. That one bite of meat got bigger and bigger and it was maybe half an hour or more we did battle to get him to just swallow. I was afraid he would choke. But food was something he wanted to control. I’m sure it stemmed from lack of food in the time before he was removed from his birth home when he was barely fed and it broke my heart.

On another occasion I was getting dinner ready and August came asking for something to eat. I told him dinner was almost ready and he could wait. He threw a fit and screamed, “You never feed me!” Again my heart broke because obviously that wasn’t the case but he definitely was drawing on some old repressed memories.

So how can we go about winning family meal time? I am going to focus on dinner because with kids in school lunches are rough and mornings tend to be an all out sprint (though a big breakfast on the weekend is my favorite meal!) Here are some ideas:

  • Include the kiddos in meal planning on Sunday: Letting them be involved in what will be on the menu for the week greatly increases the chances they will be on board when it gets served later. Now of course you ultimately get veto power so it won’t be five days of pizza, but getting buy-in will help your job.
  • Include the kiddos in cooking: August loves to cook. He would sometimes ask to cook a whole meal himself when he got older. I know, sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself but they get such pride when they help and again the buy-in helps with making sure they will eat. Plus doing things together is great for bonding!
  • Make meal time technology-free: This is a big one if you have teenagers. No phones at the table, if there’s a TV within sight it gets turned off. Meal time can be a great time to engage in meaningful conversation about the days events, about the rest of the week, about the weekend. Anything that will get the whole family communicating together.
  • Have ideas to talk about: I would always ask the boys about their day at school and what was their favorite part. That would have to be quickly followed by, “And don’t say lunch or recess.” Because otherwise those would always be the answers! I know some families who ask what is one good thing and one bad thing that happened that day. There are many ways to start conversations.
  • Make sure kiddos help clean up: The boys were always responsible for their plates and cups. And they got great about automatically carrying them to the sink, rinsing them and putting them in the dishwasher. That also meant I had to have the dishwasher emptied of clean dishes so it motivated me as well!

There are a lot of ways to make winning family meal time easier. There are meal delivery services and grocery delivery services to cut your time down, particularly if you have a very scheduled house. I also found these ideas from MSN and this blog which had some good thoughts as well.

The bottom line is being together, communicating and having fun is winning family meal time. And sometimes that is all that needs to happen.

Until next time,

Shannon

What Makes Up a Family?

Please accept my apologies for writing my Family Friday post on Sunday! I have been battling a two-day migraine. And I’ve spent big chunks of the last couple weeks teaching middle school (maybe a connection?) But interestingly, my time teaching gave me much of insight for this post and got me thinking. What makes up a family?

This is not intended to digress into a political statement about rights of minority populations or anything like that. But since you asked, I do believe that any couple who has the capacity to love a child should be allowed to parent. However, we all know that families are made of many more combinations than mothers and fathers. And this is where my time in middle school came into play. There was a student who had to stay home one day and watch her nephew. And a teacher who is co-parenting her grandchildren with her daughter. There were many students who referred to step-parents.

And it got me to thinking about how the make-up of a family affects children both positively and negatively. August spent his first year with his birth mom and grandmother. After that the grandmother moved away. The birth mom didn’t have reliable child care and routinely left him with friends or neighbors, sometimes for days at a time. At the end of the second year was when his situation caught the attention of the Russian social services and they removed him. But what if his grandmother had stayed? What if they had made that unconventional family? Would he have had a stable enough life? Hard to know.

There’s no doubt that there’s never enough people in a child’s life to love them. So making up a “family” that includes more than the nuclear family can be a wonderful thing. Particularly for a child who suffers from early trauma. But that only is the case if everyone is on the same page regarding how the treatment of that child is handled. Aunts and Uncles and grandparents have to know that consistency is key when working with a child with reactive attachment disorder. And that child will exploit any holes in the grown up “armor” no matter how small. So it requires a lot of communication and patience to be an extended family under one roof with a RAD kiddo!

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Like I said, it makes total sense to give a RAD kiddo as much love as your family has to give. And caring for your RAD kiddo can be exhausting. Having some more relief hitters would be excellent! And whether your kiddo is adopted or a birth child, family is whoever is in that child’s life who loves them.

Here is a wonderful article that really drives home the point about what makes up a family. Because while we talk about our families in the context of our RAD kiddos, families really take on so many different forms. And we need to celebrate all of them!

Hopefully there are always “family” of many types in your and your child’s lives.

Until next time,

Shannon

Good Grief! Another Holiday…

Yes, Labor Day is Monday. Another holiday is upon us with all its potential pitfalls and disasters surrounding gatherings with friends and families. And while we don’t like to expect the worst, of course when you have a RAD kiddo you have to stay on alert for “which kiddo” is going to show up at any holiday function. So with that, good grief, another holiday!

Labor Day is generally the last big party of summer. The time to close down the pool, put away the patio furniture (depending on where you live) and for some children the last hurrah before school starts (if it hasn’t already). Sometimes it’s a cookout with the family. Maybe it’s a block party with the neighborhood. It could be a pool party at the country club. Whatever it is, it could be a crowd of people that may or may not be up to speed on your RAD kiddo’s behaviors.

So it’s Monday afternoon and you’re at the pool and there’s hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and things are going fairly smoothly. All of the sudden, there’s a shriek and you see that your RAD kiddo has ripped a pool noodle away from another child and whacked them with it. And now you’re in damage control mode. You’ve got to make sure the child is OK. Then, you’ve got to apologize to the parents. You’ve got to figure out why this happened. So you talk to your RAD kiddo. And if it’s like the other times, the answer makes no sense.

Now what? Do you go home? Can you recover from this and salvage the day? Will the parents trust your child with their children now? If you punish your RAD kiddo for what they did, will they accept the consequences or will there be rage? Do you want to take the chance? And…good grief, another holiday!

There are no simple answers to these questions. If your RAD kiddo is like August, it seems like every holiday is a brand new challenge. I couldn’t look back on Independence Day to consider how he might act in this scenario as evidence. In a perfect world we could know whether our RAD kiddos could handle themselves in these situations but unfortunately that’s not our situation. We live in the world of the unpredictable, on edge and ever-changing.

What’s the answer? Ditch the Labor Day festivities in order to avoid the potential explosion? Could there be a way to run interference? Well I don’t have a definite answer. I don’t think you should ditch the party unless you can do something way better like fly to Hawaii. And I think we all know there’s no way to prevent the blow-up if it’s going to happen.

But here are a couple of ideas that might help calm the potential storm:

  • Do something with your RAD kiddo over the weekend prior (may just the two of you if possible) that they want to do and talk about the upcoming party and what you expect
  • Keep your RAD kiddo close by at the party. If you keep them engaged with you and show them what you’re expecting of their behavior, they will have less chances to forget!
  • Make sure they have their own toys, pool equipment, etc. You don’t have to go crazy but jealousy is a RAD kiddo’s kryptonite.
  • Make sure you’re praising their good behavior often during the event. The more you catch them doing good, the more likely they will continue!

After Labor Day it’s less than two months until Halloween when we start the holiday dance all over…with buckets of candy! Ack! Have a great weekend!

Until next time,

Shannon

What’s in the News?

As I started searching for this month’s appearances of reactive attachment disorder in the news, two items jumped out at me. One a column from a man named John Rosemond. In it a couple who was turned down for approval to adopt asks him for his opinion on the agency’s decision.

See Mr. Rosemond has some particularly pointed theories on child rearing which go against the adoption agency’s and the couple agreed with his ideas. You can read the story here. He mentions in his answer that he is somewhat suspicious of reactive attachment disorder and that his experience has shown that children who are parented with firm boundaries never exhibit any of those behaviors. A “Nancy Thomas” type camp but even a little more extreme in that it can include spanking and other fairly harsh punishments.

I remember when we were preparing to adopt August we had to sign a piece of paper promising we would never spank him. As any parent of a RAD kiddo can attest, that can be a hard promise to keep. They can push all the buttons, be the last straw, whatever cliche you need to use to mean getting you to your breaking point and keeping you there. Mr. Rosemond disagreed that RAD kiddos or adopted children in general should be treated differently because of any past abuse and that his parenting styles would work just fine. Not sure I’m buying that.

The second article was shocking because it happened right here in Terre Haute where I live! And I’d heard nothing about it! I applaud the family for being able to keep it quiet in my sleepy little town where everything seems to make the news…this morning National Potato Day was part of the morning drive bulletin.

But the summary is a couple’s biological children were grown so they decided to adopt. One boy through an agency then two more over time through a different agency. When the first and third boys started having behavioral and physical problems they started to investigate and came to find that the middle boy had been molesting them. You can get the full story here. The couple had been misled by the adoption agency regarding the boy’s sexual history and even his age (he was several years older).

So now they have two boys with PTSD, have had to leave Terre Haute to try and help them heal and the other boy is a ward of the state. All because the adoption agency lied. Haven’t these boys been through enough?

I’m sorry that the first couple wasn’t approved to adopt, I’m sure they’re lovely people. But there’s a reason corporal punishment isn’t recommended with adopted children. August wouldn’t have been able to tell me if spanking him triggered some horrible memory of something he’d endured with his birth family. He didn’t speak English for the first few months.

And as for the second family, those boys who were hurt had finally gotten the chance at a happy, normal life only to have it stolen by a greedy adoption agency only focused on numbers and profits. They should be ashamed. These children have enough hurdles to overcome without adding unnecessary ones on top.

Until Next Time,

Shannon

Organizational Ideas for RAD Children

NOTE: This didn’t get done on Friday as I enjoyed my last few days with my youngest. He left yesterday (ugly crying!) so I am back to work! Thank you for your patience while I rearranged the schedule a bit!

One of the biggest issues that children with reactive attachment disorder have is with what is officially termed “executive function”. This encompasses everything that has to do with organizational skills. And for our RAD kiddos this is an area they have a real problem with.

I know for years August and I struggled to find ways to make it easier for him to keep school papers together and keep track of assignments. It seemed like we tried every combination of folder, notebook, agenda and calendar system we could find both for school and home. With mixed successes because of both his lack of executive function and unfortunately his lack of interest in school. With a dash of ADHD thrown in for good measure!

This can be a great source of stress and tension with you and your RAD kiddo. Because it’s a never ending game of “the dog ate my homework” when you are constantly trying to find assignments and papers. When schoolwork in many cases is already enough of a struggle, just finding the paper shouldn’t add to the anxiety.

So how to make the whole organization process work? There are several things you can do at home. But it really needs to be a school/home partnership to make it truly successful. 

  • Establish A Relationship with the Teacher – Of course you’re going to go to Back to School night or Meet the Teacher night or whatever it’s called where you live. But you’re going to need a method of communicating that probably goes beyond the norm. When August started school I debated about volunteering in his classroom just to be another set of ears. But I decided that it would create too much anxiety for him. But not being in the classroom means you have to have a relationship with the teachers that lets them know you’re involved. You aren’t going to let your child slide but you can communicate their issues and problem-solve together. Sometimes I would tell teachers that their homework assignments were too much for him. It just was. You know your child best. Help them help your child be successful.
  • Write it down – When August was in middle school they issued each child an agenda. They were school year-based calendars customized for their school. They were to be used to keep track of homework and projects. Teachers had the students write their homework in the agendas for that class for that day. Well that works fine if your child knows what day it is and isn’t distracted by well…everything. And fails to write it down. Nowadays I know much more information is available online but that is only if the teacher chooses to use that tool. You can make it a part of your child’s IEP (and if you don’t have an IEP, GET ONE) that their homework notes are signed off on by the teacher. That way they bring home an accurate accounting of what they need to do.
  • Try Different Timelines – When August was in kindergarten, his teacher would give them a packet of homework at the beginning of each month. That way they could work at their own pace. If they had a bad day, then they could take the day off. This is also an excellent plan for our RAD kiddos. Depending on the age, a whole month of homework may not be feasible. But maybe you could talk to the teacher about a week at a time. That way, if there was a day in the week that your RAD kiddo just isn’t in a good place, you have time to recover and move on.
  • Let them be part of the process – When setting up a homework station, let your RAD kiddo help with the location (within reason), design, colors, pens, pencils, papers, etc. RAD is very much about control and the more they feel like they have made the choices, the more likely it is they will use the space. The same will go for other aspects of organization: picking out a backpack, an agenda, folder colors and on and on.

These are some ideas that have worked for me in the past. Here are some other tips for both school and home. And this article helps to teach organizational skills outside of the school environment. Please share your tips and tricks that have worked for you. We all get better when we work together!

Until next time,

Shannon

What Happens to You When School Starts

It may seem like parents get released from summer prison when school starts. No more trying to entertain bored children who don’t seem to want to do anything you suggest. No more endless family vacations inevitably wrecked by meltdowns or horrible weather or fights or any of a million other possibilities. And school couldn’t start soon enough. But somehow it seems you’ve just jumped off the teacups and onto the roller coaster! Now there’s carpool and homework and after school activities and lunches and summer already seems light years away. So what happens to you when school starts?

It can be very easy to go on “automatic pilot” at the beginning of the school year. We get that schedule humming and feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders because we’ve not left anyone sitting on the curb at school after soccer practice (yet). And there haven’t been any calls from the dean’s office (yet). So far none of your kiddos has had a sick day (yet). But in all of your amazing planning and scheduling you’ve left out the most important person in the equation – YOU.

If you manage to keep this schedule running like clockwork you’ll be dead by Thanksgiving. There’s no way to go full steam ahead all day every day with RAD kiddos plus siblings in tow through a busy school year and not take intentional time to decompress. And I can almost guarantee on that master schedule on the kitchen wall is no “ME time” anywhere. Go look. I’ll wait.

When school starts back up and the whole world is depending on you it is the absolute best time to double down on your efforts at self-care. Especially if you find yourself with some kid-free hours during the day. If you work an additional job on top of the parenting, then those hours may be taken, but we will figure out a time to get in some quality self-care, I promise.

First let’s look at what might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I’m going to guess reading for pleasure, sleep, exercise, healthy eating, quiet time or meditation. Losing any or all of those can start to weigh on you mentally and physically after just a few days not to mention weeks if you are deprived of them.

But you may feel guilty about trying to spend that much time when the schedule is so overloaded with the chaos of school. So we will have to move into “wild” self-care; finding time for yourself in the maybe the more unlikely of times and spaces!

  • Reading in the carpool lane – I always kept a book in the car. Even if I was reading something else in the house. I kept something in the car to read while I was waiting to pick whoever up from whatever. Now not everyone may be able to read multiple books at once but if you can, this is a treasure. You’re alone, it’s quiet, bring a cup of tea, leave earlier than you need to be there (you get my drift…) When both boys were in school every once in a while I would be too tired to read and my youngest would read to me (if the book was appropriate). I’d close my eyes and he’d read to me. It was heaven. That’s how he got hooked on The Hunger Games at eight years old!
  • Getting Exercise – getting to the gym may not be anywhere on the schedule but it doesn’t mean you can’t get in some cardio around the kiddos’ activities. Soccer practice? Walk the track while you wait. Is school close? Walk there with the kiddos when the weather is still nice out. Or stay after school with them one day and bring a basketball and shoot hoops. Make a game out of math homework with hopscotch for the little ones. Particularly with RAD kiddos, exercise and homework seem to be a good pairing I have found.
  • Healthy Eating – The temptation to make yet another run through “insert fast food restaurant name here” is great when school is in. I know. When you have two hours between the end of play practice and the beginning of choir practice to get the kiddos home, fed and homework done, those golden arches can be your best friend. And those little body metabolisms may not take much of a hit, but boy you know you will! So what’s the answer? Make the instant pot and crock pot your friends. Throw something in there in the morning and let it cook all day and then serve it up the minute you get home. You’d be amazed and what those things can create! Also meal prepping on the weekends and freezing things that can go in a crock pot or quickly in a skillet. My kids love meatloaf. I’d make them in muffin tins and freeze them. I took them out of the tins and put them in big ziploc bags. Take out how many you need and put them on a baking sheet, bake (takes less time because they’re smaller) and throw together a salad and you’re good to go!

These are just some ideas of how to reclaim your self-care in the chaos of the school year. If you need something to put next to that master schedule, here’s a great checklist! I’d love to hear your ideas of how you keep YOU in mind when school starts! 

Until next time,

Shannon

Getting Out the Door!

If you are like me, one of the constant challenges with your RAD kiddos is getting out the door in the morning. And whether you have one, two or twelve children, the chaos and stress seems to be the same. Someone isn’t dressed. Another hasn’t finished eating. One might not even be awake yet. And don’t get me started on missing homework, projects, permission slips, pens, pencils, phones and other necessities of school life!

I liken trying to get our kiddos out the door to this sweet little one. Her mom took this picture of her before her first day of preschool. Which I call our dream of what our children would look like heading out the door:

Then she took a picture of her at the end of that same first day of preschool as she was coming home. Which I imagine is more the reality of how many of our kiddos look on their way to school:

Certainly it’s not for a lack of trying. If you’re like me, you’ve woken up early, and tried tons of tricks and bribery to get your children moving earlier and faster to get the day started with less stress and…let’s admit it, screaming. But more often than not, no one is speaking to each other by the time you hit the car. And there’s a lot of door slamming with no one hearing the sarcastic, “I love you” that you yell as they leave for the day and you breathe a sigh of relief. It’s OK to admit it. 

But we never want it to be that way. Children are little for such a short time and we would love to have these precious morning times. OK we’d at least love for them to be less tumultuous! I have found some ideas from the experts but here are my suggestions of things I think are sure-fire things to make mornings go smoother. If not at first, maybe in the long run.

  1. The Launch Pad: I have mentioned this before but it is the essential element of the busy family. And as I have aged it is also the essential element of the middle-aged mind! It is the one place in the house that everything that needs to leave the house must go. Maybe each of you has a basket by the door. Maybe that’s too chaotic a space and you find baskets elsewhere. But keys, phones, backpacks, school papers, lunchboxes, EVERYTHING that has to do with coming and going gets put here.

    Which means if your son hands you a permission slip to fill out and you don’t put it back in the launch pad? That’s on you, not them. If they come home and drop their phone on the couch and it gets lost in the cushions and can’t be found when it’s time to leave the next morning? That’s on them. When it’s time to head out, everything that needs to be had should be ready to go on the launch pad. Including your stuff.
  2. Picking out clothes the night before: I watched a friend argue with her daughter for 40 minutes over a dress for church. They were visiting and it was the only dress she’d brought. Her daughter was tall for her age and my friend was 6 months pregnant so it wasn’t very fun for either of them. Clothes can be a harsh battleground for some kids and not a hill to die on at 6:30am. Picking out clothes the night before can eliminate one potential morning battle. Even narrowing the choices to two can get you closer to the promised land. 
  3. Sleeping medicating: I talked about doing this with August. We used to give him his ADHD meds while he was basically still asleep. He’d take them then sleep for another 1/2 hour while they kicked in. It was, if I must say, a brilliant move on our part because the child that woke up was calm, engaged and willing to follow directions. Unlike the unmedicated child who would be difficult and aggravated by everything. I highly recommend it.
  4. Natural consequences: This is a biggie. Would it kill your teenager to have to go to school in PJs? Nope. They might think so. Would it kill your straight A student to go to school without that homework that they can’t find? Nope. But they are much less likely to make those mistakes again. And it doesn’t make you a monster parent. Some natural consequences aren’t worth it. But every now and then you can find those that teach the valuable lessons your RAD kiddos need to learn. They can learn while still knowing you always are there to back them up. Send an email to the teacher about why the homework isn’t coming that day with a picture that it was indeed finished. Bring clothes to school for later. 

Here are some other ideas which I thought were thoughtful (not just because they have the same first idea I did!) I think the key is to try your best to stay calm. One way or another you’ll get out the door. You don’t have to compare your kiddos or your parenting to anyone else. Success is what you decide. And remember, breathing that sigh of relief is OK!

Until next time,

Shannon