Routine is paramount for kids with ADHD

Kids with ADHD lack intrinsic organization and planning skills. Since they don’t have these tools internally, it’s important to provide external structure. Systems and routines provide kids with ADHD the security of well-defined expectations. Implementing structure and routines in a chaotic family household is easier said than done.

This summer, I decided to get back to more structure in our home. I know it’s beneficial, I’ve seen that in the past, yet the consistent time it takes causes me to let it slide a little here and there until life in the Williams’ household is willy-nilly again. {sigh} The minute school let out for the summer, my kids were asking me two questions repeatedly: (1) what’s for dinner tonight? and (2) What do we have to do today? That gave me two ideas for structure right off the bat!


5 Tips on Structure for ADHD (1)

How I implemented these 5 tips for structure in our household

  1. Post a family schedule: Ricochet, my 11 year old with ADHD, needs to know what to expect, and what is expected of him. By posting a visual family schedule, he can see when he will be expected to be where, how long scheduleuntil an activity he’s looking forward to, when mom or dad might be away, etc. By posting the schedule, he doesn’t have to ask me repeatedly (saving some sanity) and he learns to take the initiative for himself. I found a dry-erase wall calendar that teaches the concept of time and time management that we love: My Time Kid’s Planner (Unfortunately, it looks like this product is no longer available.).
  2. Post a weekly meal plan: My teenage daughter is obsessed with what’s for dinner each day due to pickiness and anxiety over what food she may be subjected to. I was about to jump off a bridge loose my mind with her constant need to know “what’s for dinner” earlier in the day than I often had a plan! So, I got a small, dry-erase magnetic weekly calendar and put it on the bottom of our My Time Kid’s Planner. It has a dinner menu for each day (that’s as much time as I have for planning). An added bonus is that planning meals in advance helps Momma a whole lot too! This is the calendar we use and it fits perfectly on the wall planner:
  3. Implement a behavior modification system focused on 1-2 goals at a time: Ricochet’s first grade teacher implemented this type of behavior modification tool years ago and we’ve always found it useful. The key is to focus only on one or two behaviors at a time. You must keep it simple for kids with ADHD! Originally, we used a goal chart from the Victoria Chart company that I loved, but I lost it so I purchased a pack of inexpensive paper goal charts from teacher-supply (links below). I wrote in the goals (right now it’s taking food only in the kitchen or dining room (not going well) and responding calmly and kindly when spoken to). Each day, he can put one sticker on each goal that he achieves that day. He knows that he can purchase a $25 toy (not video game) when he fills his card with stickers. We have found this very successful.

  4. Create a structured system for chores: We have been shamefully lax about chores for our kids over the years. They have had to take care of the dishwasher daily for a while now, but that’s about it. Meanwhile, mom and dad are struggling to keep the house clean with work and everything else in life. I sat looking at my filthy house and my kids laying around all day and decided it was time to get serious about chores. After all, chores teach kids life lessons on working together, helping one another, and responsibility. Expecting my kids to remember what to do each day and taking the initiative wasn’t going to work, so I created a super-simple magnetic chore chart. I place the magnets for the day’s chores in each child’s block in the morning.  They reference it (with nagging nudging), complete the chore, and move the corresponding magnet to the “Done” column to be recycled for another day. Here’s the custom chore chart I copied: Custom Chore Chart for Two. If you want to add even more structure, always assign the same chores on the same day of the week.
    Make your own:
  5. Stick to a bedtime routine: Even at times when kids don’t have to get up early the next day, it’s wise to stick to a consistent bedtime and routine. I pushed Ricochet’s bedtime thirty minutes later for summer, but he is expected to complete his bedtime routine and hit the sack each night at the same time. His routine is: electronics off and plugged in, pajamas on, dirty clothes in the laundry, brush teeth, jump in bed. He’s allowed to read for up to 30 minutes each night, but usually lasts only 10-15 minutes before dozing off.

What other ways do you create structure and routine for your kids with ADHD?