Children who have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) thrive when they consistently stick with a daily routine. Having a consistent schedule for children to follow will make a difference in their life by creating habits, improving ADHD related symptoms, and setting expectations.
While medication and therapy are common treatment options for managing symptoms of ADHD, there are other strategies that your child can learn to manage symptoms and foster success in the classroom and in life.
Keep reading to learn more about ADHD and how to build an effective routine for your child.
Does ADHD make it hard to stick with a routine?
Children and even adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to have difficulty with executive functioning abilities. This can include difficulties with staying on top of tasks, staying organized, and persisting with to-dos, especially if they are monotonous and boring. Although children thrive when they engage in routines, it doesn't mean that they do not have difficulty sticking with one.
The ADHD Brain
The ADHD brain is motivated by novelty and it is easy for someone who has ADHD to jump from one task to the next out of pure boredom. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for reward, mood, and motivation, is thought to be irregular in the ADHD brain. This makes it more difficult for an individual with ADHD to stick with a routine because they might not feel motivated or rewarded by completing tasks. They also might find the repetitive nature of routines to be boring and lack stimulation. However, that does not mean that children do not benefit from routines and schedules consistency. Read more about the relationship between ADHD and dopamine.
ADHD Symptoms Can Make It Difficult To Stick To Habits
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of children and can often continue into adulthood. Children and adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD struggle with inattentiveness, or hyperactive-impulsive behaviors, or both. The three subtypes of ADHD include:
- Predominantly Inattentive Type: indicates a pattern of inattentiveness that can include ignoring, failing to pay attention to details, difficulty with staying focused on tasks, appearing not to listen when being spoken to directly, having difficulty with staying organized and completing tasks, losing items frequently, and forgetting to tasks.
- Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type: involves hyperactive or impulsive behaviors. This can include constant fidgeting, having difficulty staying seated in the classroom, constantly on the go, talking frequently, interrupting others, having difficulty sharing or taking turns, and blurting out answers in the classroom.
- Combined Type: is a mix of both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.
Benefits of Routines
Structure and consistency within your child's environment will benefit your child's mental health, and the entire family's.
Research states that children, no matter their age, can regulate their behaviors more effectively when families follow a predictable schedule and routine. But why is that?
Structure within your child's schedule is beneficial for a few reasons:
- Builds skills and habits. A daily routine allows your child to have structure within their day and improve their executive functioning skills, like planning, organizing, and initiating tasks. When your child clearly understands what each day will look like, it gives them a sense of control.
- Fewer conflicts. When families stick to a routine, it lessens the stress or anxiety people with ADHD might experience. In this case, a structure can help mitigate arguments and conflicts within the family and improve everyone's well-being.
- Fosters success. When children engage in a good routine, they are learning ways to be successful for the long run. They allow your child to focus on one task at a time, while feeling safe and secure. Structure is also thought to build a child's self-esteem. With routines, children learn skills such as creating a to-do list, forming a habit, and setting goals.
When a person with ADHD has a predictable day-to-day schedule and consistency within the home, such as clear house rules, expectations, and consequences, your child will learn to manage ADHD symptoms better and improve their overall well-being and mental health.
We'll quickly go over all the basics to building a solid routine for your child.
If you are a parent struggling to implement a routine for your child with ADHD , try Joon app. Joon is an app designed specifically for ADHD children and their parents. The game combines real-world chores to earn points/complete missions within the game. Many parents have seen their ADHD child become more autonomous, build better habits and become motivated.
Structure your mornings
Getting your child up and ready for school in the morning can be stressful. That's why having a consistent morning routine will help promote self efficacy and create habits that are bound to stay.
Having to-dos clearly written down from the moment your child wakes up from their alarm to the second they walk through the doors of the classroom will set your child with ADHD up for success.
These can include providing them with a morning checklist of to-dos such as brushing their teeth, getting dressed, encouraging them to eat a good breakfast, taking their medication, and checking their backpack for all of their school items.
Break down the whole day into smaller tasks
Breaking down the day into each small task will help build your child's self esteem when they are able to check it off of the list, so write it down! Going over this task list and daily schedule with your child each day is a great goal setting exercise as well as an effective way to model the importance of building a routine that they will take with them into adulthood.
Remember to be active!
When building out a new routine, it is important to consider the importance of fun and exercise for your child. Schedules should also include interests that your child enjoys engaging in as well as self care activities. Studies have indicated that exercise is linked to a reduction in impulsivity and an improvement in focus.
Getting adequate sleep is critical for a child's functioning, whether they have been diagnosed with ADHD or not. Routines should not be forgotten about at night and with that said, establishing a bedtime routine is essential for your child's sleep hygiene. Rest is important!
Nighttime Routine Ideas
Schedule time before bed for calm-down activities that will help your child sleep better and feel well rested when they wake up. While there are many different techniques to try, some ideas include:
- Read a bedtime story
- Practice mindfulness or meditation (engage in deep breathing exercises or listen to soothing music)
- Create an environment that is conducive to sleeping (dark, quiet, etc.)
How can you be consistent with ADHD?
Trying to keep your child with ADHD on a consistent schedule can create a lot of stress. It is important to be patient with your child and be flexible. Establishing a daily routine that you and your family will stick with will take time.
Plans change and life happens, therefore, not everything every task will get completed all the time. Being prepared to make adjustments will teach your child the importance of being flexible from time to time.
Here are a list of other tools that may be helpful in staying consistent in your daily routine:
- Setting a timer/alarm will help keep your child on task and hyper focus for a specific time frame (whether it is 30 minutes or an hour). This will also provide your child with how much time they will be allotted to complete a task.
- Set reminders. Using your smartphone to set reminders within the calendar app will allow you to keep track of plans.
- Create a behavior chart for your child. Behavior charts are a wonderful tool for rewarding your child for positive behaviors. If your child stays consistent, they will have the chance to earn a reward at the end of the week!
- Keeping the routines simple.
Being a parent of a child with ADHD can be challenging at times. It might seem nearly impossible to get your child to stay the course and persist with a routine, but consistency is key! Not only will your child benefit from having a schedule and predictability within the home, but your whole family will experience decreased stress and have more opportunities to build positive connections that you will cherish forever.
While engaging in a routine or schedule has many benefits for people with adhd, it is not the end all be all treatment option. There are also a variety of other ADHD resources and strategies that are available to help you or your child feel more in control of their symptoms. For instance, adhd support groups for children and adults with adhd, live chat sessions with psychologists, talk therapy, mindfulness meditation, and medication options are just some of the few treatment modalities available.