Schedules & Routines

Does Your Family Need a Routine Tune-Up?

A regular daily routine is essential for children and parents alike. Yet ongoing change and uncertainty regarding at-home learning, social isolation from peers, and pandemic worries is causing schedule (and life) upheaval in many homes. A regular family schedule can offset much of this stress by building predictability and calm. Learn how to build one.

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For parents with ADHD who are also raising kids with ADHD, the effort to stay organized and productive at home can feel like a battle worthy of The Mandalorian. Trying to adopt new strategies for the return to in-person school and work, on top of everything else, may feel insurmountable.

The solution is not exciting, but it is effective: routine. A regular daily routine is essential for children and parents alike, especially now that students are finally returning to the classroom. Yet more change after months of at-home learning, social isolation from peers, and pandemic worries are causing unease and anxiety in many homes. A family schedule can offset much of this stress by building predictability and calm.

Start by analyzing what’s working (and what’s falling apart) with the regular routine activities of your week — namely, bedtime and the morning rush, meals, and homework. Enlist children as co-planners for new and improved routines around these daily tasks. Make it a positive experience — grab the popcorn, a new whiteboard, and some fresh markers. Be creative. Brainstorm fun incentives to motivate the whole family to stick to its routines.

1. Apply homework time to parents and kids. A predictable, nightly homework routine is essential for students of all ages, but why not make it time for you to get work done, too? Set the kitchen timer for an agreed start to “family” work time, which may include tackling emails, paperwork, bills, or chores around the house. Setting aside daily time for parental tasks helps you keep on top of those pesky chores that continually fall through the cracks by setting an appointment time with yourself and your kids. It may also help your kids focus and power through, as ‘body doubling’ is an effective productivity tool for many ADHD brains.

2. Rethink morning routines to start the day right. Starting the morning off in an organized, calm fashion can create a more positive, productive day for everyone. Brainstorm with your family what a “good” school/work/sports morning would look like for all involved — not being rushed, making time for breakfast, no yelling at anyone to move faster! Work in one or two new strategies each week toward the goal of a smoother morning routine. What would it look like for you to have a more peaceful morning? Be sure to add your own goals to the mix and make it a priority for everyone’s needs to be met.

[Free Download: Sample Schedule for Kids with ADHD]

3. Devise bedtime rituals that create calm. Now is the time to re-establish a regular bedtime routine for everyone, young and old alike. Kids, depending on their age, need approximately 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Adults should get 7 to 9 hours. The effects of sleep deprivation have been shown to mimic ADHD and can worsen symptoms in those who already have ADHD.

On top of this, many kids and adults with ADHD have trouble settling down and getting to sleep. So getting a good night’s sleep is even more essential in an ADHD household. Talk with your kids about overhauling your family’s bedtime routine to improve what experts call “sleep hygiene;” explain to them why this is important for good health. Establish a nightly wind down time — screens off and phones away an hour before lights out, maybe a hot bath or shower, relaxing music, or reading time. For kids of any age, the ritual of reading together with parents before bed is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your child and yourself. Not only can it improve your child’s vocabulary and reading comprehension, but it will also establish an oasis of calm and connection for you and your child in what might be an otherwise hectic day.

4. Make family mealtime a daily event. Even on a busy day, choose at least one meal that the whole family eats together, without rushing thorough to get to the next activity. Kids can pick out special place mats, cloth napkins, or other table settings to mark this meal as “special.” Better yet, invite them into the kitchen to make meal prep a family affair. Family mealtimes can be an opportunity for everyone to connect and share their day, good and bad. If kids are used to eating on the go, family mealtime may take some easing in to; start with a few minutes sitting together at the table and increase meal duration over time. Eventually they will see family meals as an opportunity to reconnect daily.

Creating new family routines, or re-establishing old ones, can take effort and persistence, especially for families with ADHD. But with persistence, the benefits will far outweigh the challenges, resulting in a more calm, organized and productive household.

Daily Routine: Next Steps

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