Transitions With My Two Kids With ADHD Are Really, Really Hard

The 20 minutes leading up to our departure of any event is complete household mayhem.

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It’s 4:45pm, and it’s time for my 9 and 7-year-old sons to get ready for lacrosse practice. Here’s the tough part: Both have ADHD and require some extra time and attention with transitions, but in wildly different ways.

For my 9-year-old, it means repeating directions again and again. Reminding him of the next step in his getting ready process. If I don’t, he will leave a water bottle, jacket, or stick behind.

But my 7-year-old has a different kind of transitional difficulty. It’s the kind that results in loud, angry outbursts over very small things. And it can be really, really hard to manage. So I brace for impact as I tell him, after a few earlier reminders, that is is now time to start getting ready. And just like that, the resistance begins. The audible stomping, furious yelling, and name calling. And despite all of my best efforts (complete with carrying out suggestions from his teachers, doctor, and Google), I can’t seem to avoid it. Because transitions with him are just that hard, and it rocks my whole house.

Because he’s only one piece of our six-person family puzzle, it affects everyone. My 9-year-old gets annoyed and lashes out verbally, my 2-year-old starts crying, and my 5-year-old retreats to a quiet area to avoid the whole scene. It’s not just the non-negotiables like school and the dentist; it’s the things that are supposed to be fun. A trip to the museum, an afternoon at the park, a night out for dinner — all of them are made so much more difficult because the 20 minutes leading up to our departure is complete household mayhem. And sometimes we throw in the towel on an idea for just that reason.

And the super frustrating thing is that I know he will (usually) enjoy himself once he reaches wherever he’s going. He is not a kid who clings to my leg in misery in social situations. Instead, he gallops out of the car, makes friends, and has a pretty good time wherever we go. So why the heck is the “getting there” so incredibly hard?

Intellectually, I’m pretty sure his ADHD plays a large role. An article in Additude suggested that kids with ADHD live in two worlds — the “now” and the “not now.” Whatever they are currently doing is the “now,” and they’re only thinking about and enjoying that. So transitions from one activity to the next can be incredibly frustrating for them, because they can’t pre-prepare for the change, even when warned. The article discusses strategies like warnings, timers, and rewards — all things I have tried, but never super consistently since they never seemed too effective.

I often roll my eyes at this stuff, thinking my kid is the exception to all of these softer, more obvious, Google-based solutions. But I am starting to think I should give them more of a chance. I mean, it can’t hurt.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.

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