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.

Routines like brushing teeth at the same time each night help ADHD kids. ADDitude Magazine

Usually, routines don't work because parents give up too soon.

Peter Jaksa, Ph.D.
   
 

ADHD Organization Help: A Schedule

7:00 a.m. Tickle your child out of bed. (A little happy energy can get her up and moving quickly.)

7:05 a.m. Get ready: Post a list and have your child stick to it.

  • Wash face.
  • Comb hair.
  • Get dressed. (Clothes are laid out the night before.)Check to see how your child is doing, but let her follow the list and do for herself.

7:20 a.m. Breakfast time: Offer two healthy but appealing choices, max. You want her to spend her time eating, not pining over Lucky Charms.

7:45 a.m. Brush your teeth—together. Being with her can speed things up and insure good hygiene.

7:55 a.m. Zip, tie, and layer up. Keeping shoes and gloves by the front door spares you the hide-and-seek.

8:00 a.m. Out you go.

Sample Homework Routine

3:00 p.m. Have a snack and unwind from school.

3:30 p.m. Settle your child at his regular homework spot; be sure all tools are available (pencils, paper, calculator, reference books, etc.).

3:35 - 4:30 p.m. Your child does homework; you stay around to answer questions and monitor breaks (stretch, bathroom, drink).

4:25 p.m. Check his work, and calmly go over anything he should edit (but don't do it for him). Offer specific praise for good work.

Sample Dinner Routine

6:00 p.m. Parent(s) starts food prep. Organize preparation so that you can avoid the delay of mealtime.

6:15 p.m. Kids set the table. Give them specific tasks to instill a sense of responsibility.

6:30 p.m. Kids pour the beverages.

6:45 p.m. Parent(s) brings the food out to the table.

7:00 p.m. Dinner is served. For mealtime talk, try this: Go around the table—once or more—and have each person share one good thing about his or her day.

7:30 p.m. Kids clear the table. Parent(s) loads the dishwasher.

Sample Bedtime Routine

8:00 p.m. Let him relax in the tub. You can read to him or he can read to himself. Beyond cleanliness, a bath can help a child mellow out at day's end.

8:20 p.m. Three-part routine: dry off, brush teeth, and pee. You don't want to hear, "Mom, I have to go to the bathroom!" five minutes after you say goodnight.

8:30 p.m. Get into PJs and clean up toys to set a nighttime—not a playtime - scenario.

8:40 p.m. Read together.

8:55 p.m. Your child gets into bed. Do your nighttime routine: Talk a little about the day, compliment your child on the things he did well, say your ritual goodnight - "I love you all the way to the moon and back again. Don't let the bedbugs bite."


ADHD Organization Help

 
   

All parents of ADHD children have heard the routine about routines: Kids need structure, and children with attention deficit need even more. The keys to getting the ADHD organization help you need: belief in the power of family routines and a long-term commitment to them.

You've heard it before: Set up a morning routine for ADHD children to get out the door on time. Make sure homework happens at the same time and in the same setting daily. Do something fun to unwind before a regular bedtime.

On paper, this seems pretty basic. But when you're raising a child with real attention difficulties in the real world, setting and maintaining such routines can seem downright hopeless. Yet there is hope — even happiness — in sight.

Many well-intentioned parents enthusiastically start out to establish the structure their children need. Yet many throw in the towel after a few weeks (or even a few days) because the routines are not working. "Billy just won't listen. He doesn't want to go along with it. Every day becomes a battle, and we're all worn out. Is there something else we can try?"

Usually, routines don't work because parents give up too soon. To make structure truly effective, routines need to be seen and implemented not just as simple behavioral strategies, but as a way of life.

Multiple Benefits

Routines affect life positively on two levels. In terms of behavior, they help improve efficiency and daily functioning. It may not always be obvious, but children want and need routines. A predictable schedule offers structure that helps kids feel safe and secure. By building one, you send a message that says, "This is how we do things." Routines make daily activities manageable, allowing your child to focus on one thing at a time.

In addition, your whole family will benefit psychologically from a structured regime. Both parents and children experience decreased stress when there's less drama about what time you'll eat dinner and where you'll settle down to do homework.

What follows is a relaxed home, which yields stronger family relationships. And family identity is solidified by routines in which everyone plays a role (Anna sets the table, Brian clears the dishes). The message: We are a family who eats together; we are a family who reads together; we are a family who schedules regular times for schoolwork and other ongoing responsibilities.

In these hectic times, it may seem impossible to provide a structured lifestyle. Everyone is juggling schedules: work, school, recreation, music lessons, basketball practice, and so on. Yet in just such times, structure becomes most important. The payoff: greater productivity for your child, as well as better health and family relationships.

A review of 50 years of psychological research, recently published in Journal of Family Psychology, shows that even infants and preschoolers are healthier and exhibit better-regulated behavior when there are predictable routines in the family.

Effective routines take commitment and consistency, with all family adults presenting a united front. Routines should be established when children are young and applied consistently as they grow — but it's never too late to start. Above all, don't give up.

Here are suggestions and some sample routines to help get you started. Of course, you'll want to amend them to suit the age and maturity of your child, the specific behaviors you are working on, and your family's personality and needs. As you develop your routines, remember that success takes time — sometimes months and years. But the benefits will last a lifetime.

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Good Mornings

The goal of the morning routine is to get everyone ready and out the door on time. Preparations made the night before, such as bathing, packing bookbags, laying out clothes, setting the alarm, and making lunch, are crucial in setting up a smooth morning routine.

Because many children (and adults) with ADHD are highly distractible and impulsive, avoid stimuli that are likely to grab attention and throw the routine off course. For example:

1. Leave the TV off in the morning.

2. Don't get on the computer to check your e-mails.

3. Ignore that new magazine or catalog until after school or later that evening.

Continue reading this article...


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

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