Reliable Routines for ADHD Children (and Their Parents!)

ADHD children often need consistent schedules to help them stay on track at home and at school — because good structure breeds great behavior in attention deficit kids.


Filed Under: Routines for ADHD Children, ADHD Time Management, Homework and Test Help, ADHD Sleep Advice

Routines, Part 2

Homework Helper

It's often said that the only consistent thing about children with ADHD is their inconsistency. This is particularly problematic when it comes to academic effort. No activity demands greater structure and consistency than homework, when a child's ability to self-regulate is called upon. Not surprisingly, parent-child homework battles are common. But an established study routine (time, place, methods) goes a long way toward decreasing their frequency and intensity — if not eliminating them entirely. To establish a homework routine that will improve productivity and increase academic achievement:

  • Enforce a consistent start time. This will help your child build a homework habit.
  • Stay close to your child. Many children with ADHD concentrate better when an adult works with them or is nearby.
  • Take breaks. Distractibility, restlessness, difficulty maintaining concentration, and low frustration tolerance — all typical of ADHD — almost guarantee mental fatigue and boredom. Frequent short breaks, during which the child is allowed to move around, can help.
  • Have fun afterward. Your child is more likely to apply herself to homework when she knows that a fun activity, such as playing a game or watching TV, will follow.

Dinner's Ready

For hundreds of years, family members have forged strong relationships around the dinner table. In this age of the Internet and TV movies on demand, a dinner ritual is still beneficial, if not crucial. While most mealtimes last only about 20 minutes (less time than a TV sitcom), a lot of good things can happen in that short time.Ideally, mealtimes should be a pleasant social time, with business, school, or family problems left off the table. It takes time and work to prepare a family meal, and it can be a hassle getting everyone together at one time, but you'll find the benefits are well worth the effort:

  • Family members stay connected to one another's lives.
  • Events are discussed and plans get made with everyone's input.
  • Responsibility and family cohesion are encouraged by such simple acts as children setting the table and cleaning up afterwards.

Good Nights

Your goal at bedtime is to help your child wind down and get to sleep at a usual time. Research shows that children with regular bedtime routines get to sleep sooner and awaken less often during the night than those without them.Many children with ADHD fight bedtime because, quite simply, going to bed is boring to them. It's time for sleep, but there's still so much they can do! Routines that offer rewards and pleasant activity while encouraging relaxation can help overcome the boredom of bedtime. Some things to try:

  • Have a light, healthy snack, like an apple or cheese on a rice cake.
  • Play a quiet, low-stakes game, or read a book.
  • Have a sweet and personal nightly lights-out ritual.
  • Try to get your child into bed at the same time each evening.

There's no question that establishing family routines takes a great deal of time and effort. You may ask yourself, "Can we afford the time and the energy to do all of this?" A better question might be, "Can we afford not to?"


This article comes from the April/May 2004 issue of ADDitude.

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