Families with ADHD need reliable and consistent routines and schedules. That applies to the parents and the kids with ADHD. Setting up the structure of the morning and evening with positive expectations and well-established schedules helps improve everyone’s balance and set the pace for the day. Here are suggested schedules to help your family back to school success.
Getting buy-in with your family
Start with a family meeting to gain momentum with your routines. Families intuitively know and feel the benefits. Get official buy -in with a conversation highlighting that routines preclude making every decision every day and therefore offer stress relief. Making multiple decisions every day wears everyone out. Following the structure of routines helps achieve their goals, whether that is getting a good night’s rest, getting better grades, or having more time for games. With a schedule, everyone knows what to do and when to do it without nagging. The results are more of what everyone wants which is time together to have fun.
Next, move on to designing a schedule that works. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and the time it takes for tasks. While it is hard for those with ADHD to sense how long a task takes, give yourself time to get tasks done and a deadline to do this.
Writing out the morning schedule
Getting everyone ready and out the door on time is the priority in the morning. Prepare as much as you can the night before using a landing strip for backpacks and setting a wake-up alarm. Avoid adding in extra tasks and emails in the morning. A simply written schedule should be:
7:00 wake up, take meds, wash face, get dressed
7:15 eat breakfast, pack lunch
7:30 grab backpack, head to car
Keep it simple with only the highlights of this routine. Post this routine where your family sees it and the point of use. For kiddos, that’s the bathroom mirror.
Write a checklist for the afternoon schedule
Afternoon schedules have more to do and require a checklist to be sure it is all accomplished. There is homework, activities, and dinner together. Establishing a set study routine eliminates the choice of what time to start. Hiring a homework helper to reinforce settling into homework time. Review what is expected during homework time to ensure completion. End the evening with fun.
4:00 Snack and chat
4:30 Homework time at dinner table, kitchen table or home office alongside you
6:00 Gym, music, scouts, or other activity
7:00 Dinner together
7:30 Clean up and prep lunches
8:00 Bath, books and bed
Adjust this checklist depending on your child’s age and stage. The flow of activities is the same. Parents of middle and high schoolers are more frequently limiting gaming time during the week. Set a time of day for technology to start and end, including turning off wifi. It’s easier for you as a parent to enforce these times with this routine. Post this checklist at the family command center for everyone to see it.
Dinner time together helps everyone stay connected. Work around activities and church to find time together each evening to sit and enjoy time together. Make dinner simple with cereal or sandwiches, kids cooking, or healthy takeaway dinner. Eating a meal together without technology keeps everyone connected. Try conversation starters like high and low, talking about the high points and low points of the day with your kids, or other conversation starters.
Wind down with a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime is crucial for those with ADHD. For those with ADHD, it takes a sleep routine to fall asleep. Set a time to get ready for bed with extra time for quiet conversation with you. Encourage relaxation by turning off all blue light devices an hour before bedtime and placing these in the common charging spot. Use bath time as a wind-down mechanism with lavender bath salts. A cool, dark room with quiet music or a sound machine set the stage for sleep for kids and adults.
Keep routines going
Here are the tricks to routines – keep it, simple sweetie! Start with a small routine, and add that single step to another existing routine. Make it visual so that everyone can remember and see the steps for the routines.
Remember, routines keep going because you as know the value and power of routines. Routines can be re-started every week to stay consistent. Don’t give up because on the first day or week the routines are not in place. It takes practice and the conviction you are a family who follows routines to keep these in place.