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

 

Changing Routines with your RAD

One of the things that it is hardest to make happen with any child is changing routines. But now that the start of a new school year is looming, big changes are about to come. If you’ve taken it easy this summer on bedtimes and wake-up times, on mealtimes and studying, then getting back in the groove will be challenging. But changing routines with your RAD kiddo will be even harder. Why is this? Because these children don’t like change and they LOVE control. They want to be in charge because it makes them feel better since they do not trust the adults around them.

So how you deal with changing routines with your RAD? If you’ve dealt with this for a while, you’ve probably got a long list of things that DON’T work:

  • Reward charts
  • Time outs
  • Negative reinforcement (traditional punishment)

So what will work for changing the routines so that school starts with ease for both your children and you? Here are some tips that I used when August was younger as well as some ideas I’ve gotten from friends and social media.

  • Start getting bedtimes moved to school times – I always start getting bedtime and wake up times moved to school times about a week before school starts. This was particularly painful when we lived in Oregon where it stayed light until 10:30pm! It seemed to stay light out forever after I put the boys to bed and did I hear about it! But sleeping was always hard for August. He took medication to help him sleep so getting him on the right schedule was important.
  • Practice morning routines – There is a lot more that happens on a school morning than a summer morning. Getting up and dressed, eating breakfast and getting out the door. Maybe you just head to the library or to run errands but it gives you all a chance to “remember” what getting out in the morning is like!
  • Get the kiddos involved in planning – Pick your “launch pad”. This is the place in the house where everything goes: backpacks, homework, keys, purses, lunches, permission slips, projects, ANYTHING that has to go to school. 
  • Try sleepy medicating – We did this with August and it was one of the best discoveries ever. In addition to RAD he has ADHD. We found that waking him up a half-hour before he had to get up and getting his ADHD meds in him and letting him go back to sleep while they kicked in made a huge difference. When he woke up he was calm and responsive. If he just woke up and started spinning, mornings were so much harder!
  • Make a short list of “Don’t come down here until…” – Depending on the age of your children, if they are old enough to dress themselves and brush their own teeth and hair, make a poster or a list for the top of the stairs that lists the things that have to be done before they come down. It may just be 3-4 things like: dressed, shoes, teeth, hair, make bed. Sometimes that’s all it takes to give them a little reminder of what needs to happen.

Here is a blog post from NetNanny on some other ideas for morning and after school routines to help diffuse the chaos!

As we get into the school year, making the routine simple and easy will go a long way toward making the learning go well. I wish you all good luck as the new school year gets underway!

Until next time,

Shannon

Remembering the Funny Times

As I have talked about before, I get great hope, inspiration and comfort from humor. Laughing when sometimes I want to cry is a stress reliever for me and always has been. Sometimes I’m not as “appropriate” about when I use humor I think…but it has usually served me well. Now, when it seems like there is nothing to laugh about, I am working hard at remembering the funny times.

August has always been a funny and charming kid. And he’s done and said some things that have been absolutely hilarious. Here are a few examples of when he was trying and even when he was not:

When we first came home, obviously he didn’t have a great command of English and he was learning words phonetically and quickly. He learned how to count like he did many other things from Sesame Street. And learning by listening meant that he heard the words not quite right and they sounded funny coupled with his accent. So “four” and “fork” both came out sounding like the mother of all curse words. You can imagine standing in the pool with little 3-year-old August on the side counting till he jumps in…”One, two three, F*@K, Five!” We tried so hard to get him to just count to three but he was so proud of his ability that he wanted to show off.

The next one I remembered was about the same time period. Again, August was learning words phonetically. We began as soon as he came home saying Grace at dinner with the poem, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him, for our food.” As August got better with his English, he liked to do it by himself. But what he heard was, “Got is great, God is good, wet us tank he, ya ya food.” We loved it so much we didn’t have the heart to correct him for many years after he knew the right words.

It wasn’t always language-based that we found the humor. When he got into high school the laughs kept coming. This one he probably didn’t even know how funny it was. At least to me.

He spent 16 months at a residential treatment facility. When he came home we enrolled him in a private school designed for students who behaviorally just didn’t fit in a mainstream school. Smaller class sizes, etc. The very first day he found out there was a basketball team and it was basketball season. Basketball had been one of his favorite things at the RTC. The second day he was begging me to take him for an athletic physical. I gave in, we went. And no lie, by the end of the week, he was on the team and playing in a game. He was thrilled. I thought it hilarious his determination and belief that he was going to be the answer to their prayers.

Remembering these funny little moments helps with things are not at all funny. Here’s an article that supports the benefits of laughter. I encourage you to write down those funny moments with your children to look back on when maybe times aren’t so hilarious. And I’d love any stories you’d like to share. We can all use a laugh!

Until next time,

Shannon

Talking About Breathing

Breathing shouldn’t be something that takes up much thought. I mean, it’s as easy as, well, breathing, right? But our hectic lives and stress and tension can affect our breathing. Our breathing can actually contribute to the build up of toxins in our body if done improperly which can make our ability to cope even harder. The thing we most take for granted may be adding to our headaches, panic attacks, stress and fatigue.

The moral of this is we can just breathe. HOW we breathe matters. Being more intentional about our breathing can help us feel better, not just stay alive. Below I’ve included a couple of breathing exercises to try. I first tried this for help with sleeping and was amazed when it WORKED! I was a skeptic but it was one of the only ways I could turn off my brain and get to sleep. The key is first learning correct breathing technique. When we are born, we breathe with our abdomen; our diaphragm. If you’ve ever taken singing lessons, it’s what they tell you helps sustain your breath to hold long notes and produce a good sound. Somewhere along the way, we stop doing that and start to breathe from our chest in shorter, shallower breaths. If you have the ability to watch a baby sleep or breathe, you’ll see that as it breathes, its stomach moves up and down, not its chest. A baby naturally breathes deeply and wholly. It would be nice if life didn’t get in the way and we stopped taking these blissful deep breaths! This first one is the one I used to fall asleep: Mindful Breath Counting
  1. Practice this exercise while sitting upright to enhance mindfulness awareness. Later, if you like, you can use it in bed as a technique to help you fall asleep.
  2. Use slow, deep abdominal breathing.
  3. Count each exhalation to yourself. When you reach the fourth exhalation, start over again at one. Here is how you do it: Inhale…exhale (“one”)…inhale…exhale (”two”)…inhale…exhale (“three”)…inhale…exhale (“four”)…inhale…exhale (“one”)…and so forth.
  4. If your mind wanders to bodily sensations, noises, daydreams, worries and so forth, simply observe those thoughts without judgments or expectation, and then return to counting your breaths.
  5. If you lose track of your count, simply start over again at “one”.
  6. Continue counting your exhalations in sets of four for 10 minutes. Gradually increase to 20 minutes.
I promise if you try it to help getting to sleep you won’t need 20 minutes! Letting Go of Tension Exercise
  1. Inhale diaphragmatically (with your abdomen rather than your chest expanding) as you say to yourself “breathe in”.
  2. Hold your breath a moment before you exhale.
  3. Exhale slowly and deeply as you say to yourself “exhale”.
  4. Inhale slowly, then hold your breath for a moment, noticing any parts of your body that tense up.
  5. As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body. With each exhalation, feel increasingly relaxed as you release tension.
  6. Pause between each breath, finding your natural rhythm.
  7. When thoughts, feelings and sensations catch your attention, simply observe them, then re-focus on your breathing.
  8. Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, practice it throughout the day in non-stressful situations for five to 20 minutes at a time. Then try using it in stressful situations to reduce your tension.
  9. As you practice, focus on exhaling completely: you must exhale fully before you can breathe in deeply.
Please share your experiences with trying these ideas and their success for you. We can all use a little less tension and some more fresh breaths! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>