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Dear Organizing Coach: When the Blind Lead the Blind, Things Get Messy

Your child has ADHD, and needs to develop better organization skills STAT. The problem? You have ADHD too, and have no clue how to help your child get organized when your own life is a mess. Here, our organizing coach provides strategies for messy parents with ADHD.

Q: “How do I teach organization to my son with ADHD when I struggle with my own ADHD disorganization?” —Christy


Dear Christy:

Your question is one I get asked quite often. It’s one of the reasons why, at Order Out of Chaos, we work with both the student and the family to make sure EVERYONE is properly supported. Here are a few strategies to try in families where both the child and parent are living with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD).

1. Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First.

If you want to help your child with ADD get organized, it’s critical that you first identify your own challenges and find solutions that work for you! What might that look like? Let’s say homework is a real struggle in your home and, by the time you arrive home after a full day’s work, you just don’t have the focus or the mental energy to assist your son. Put other work-arounds in place like having your son complete homework at school or hiring a high school student to assist in the evenings.

2. Partner Before Parenting.

You have the perfect partner in your son. Sit down with him and simply ask what he thinks would work in various situations. Perhaps he likes novelty and would prefer reminders written on his bedroom mirror rather than hung in the kitchen. You’d be surprised how creative kids can be when they are simply asked!

[Free Resource: When You Have ADHD, Too]

3. Think Aloud.

I had a client once who struggled with time management. She would consistently model time-planning strategies for her son by talking aloud when she planned her own activities. She would say things like, “I have to pick up dad at the train station at 6:30. It’s 5:45 now and it takes me 10 minutes to get there. I should leave at 6:20 which gives me 35 minutes.” Just by making your son aware of how you get things done (or don’t!) can work its way into his subconscious and stay there.

**If you would like more ways to support yourself and your son, check out my book, What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management? A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Teen Succeed.


Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions here!

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