by: Jane Samuel
Our youngest, now age 12, like many children of trauma, wants to have all her ducks in a row and know what is coming next. She hates getting caught off guard – “I forgot that we had P.E. today and I didn’t have my shoes!!” So schedules and planning work very well with her and up until last year I had to be on top of things so that she could avoid those upsets. This was hard because she didn’t always take reminders and instruction from me that well. I think she viewed the reminders as a criticism or an indication that she had failed in some way.
Last year in school the teachers worked very hard on ownership of problems and problem solving; the latter of which my daughter loves doing in part because I think it helps her feel in control when she problem solves. As part of their learning they are taught to organize – their materials, their lives, their schedules. I was concerned at first how my daughter would handle this instruction. Thankfully the staff approached in a no nonsense, but nurturing way. It just was what it was. If you forgot your homework, that was the fact. Then there was time to own it and figure out how not to have it happen again.
From this instruction my daughter learned to expand on something she already loved doing. Historically she had always insisted on having her pile of things on the floor by the mudroom door so she could be ready for the next day: book bag, sneakers for P.E., coat, boots if the weather required them. I am not sure if she learned this at school or on her own, but it worked for her.
Last year when she was finally able to remember to write herself reminders and could read them back to herself she began putting sticky notes all over her bathroom mirror each night. She requested, and I got for her, a holder for her bedroom door that holds sticky notes and a pen. She takes these and writes herself all sorts of notes. Some mornings there are 4-5 notes there. Things like “Sneakers for gym,” “Vocab test today,” “talk to Mrs. S about biography project.” “Hair ties for drama.” The spelling is not always perfect but the notes are legible and readable.
Recently I heard a great lecture by Rudy Rodriguez a life coach and ADHD therapist in Ashville NC that really fit with what I was seeing my daughter do at home. He talked about kids having with memory and organizational issues having to “get ready to get ready”. They couldn’t just “get ready”- something we warn our kids to do all the time – because that wasn’t enough. While they were “getting ready” everyone was already gone!
To do this “getting ready to get ready” he talked about having a “landing pad” by the back door with everything they needed for school the next day. As I listened to this I noted happily that my daughter already did this. But then it dawned on me she had two “landing pads” the one in the kitchen AND the one on her mirror in the bathroom.
She was “getting ready to get ready to get ready” to go.
If you are having difficulty in mornings, think about whether your child needs a landing pad — or like mine, more than one.