The Importance of Routine for ADHD Children

The Importance of Routine for ADHD ChildrenRaising an ADHD child is far from easy, but studies show that a structured routine can make a huge difference in managing your child’s symptoms and behaviors.  A detailed, structured routine can help your children to effectively complete his/her homework and chores, and still leave plenty of time for enjoying fun and structured activities.  In this article we will outline a few strategies that can help guide you as you develop a structured routine for your family, followed by a brief sample that will give you an idea regarding the types of activities to include in your plan.

Creating a Routine:  Some Guidelines to Follow

The following guidelines are important to keep in mind when setting up a structured routine in your home:

  • Slowly build good habits.  As you are already well aware, there are often many bad habits associated with ADHD, but this does not mean that ADHD children cannot learn good habits to replace them.  Experts suggest that parents slowly build good habits in their children by introducing one good habit at a time, reinforcing this habit until the child masters it, and then repeating the process with another habit.
  • Set realistic goals.  Setting goals that are too large or difficult to obtain will only cause frustration in the ADHD child.  When developing a routine, parents should try and break larger goals into smaller and more realistic short-term objectives that are easier for children to reach.  This will not only build self-esteem in the ADHD child, but will help to build momentum and illustrate to the ADHD child the value of being on a structured routine.
  • Incorporate exercise.  Hyperactivity, which is one of the hallmarks of ADHD, especially in boys, can lead to disciplinary problems and sleep difficulties that can affect school performance.  Incorporating physical, movement-based exercise into your routine will help your ADHD child expend some of his pent up energy so he can be more focused on other activities.
  • Reward for good behavior.  It is no secret that ADHD children are regularly disciplined, at school and at home, for impulsive and inappropriate behavior, but when they are similarly rewarded for good behavior it helps to reinforce the positive and provides motivation for the child to repeat the good behavior more often.

A Sample Routine for ADHD Children

Using the above suggestions as your guide, you will now be able to create a schedule or routine that is personalized to the unique needs of your child.  Below is just a sample of the types of activities you may want to include at different times of the day:

Morning Activities

The time before the school day starts is important to a child’s success.  Morning activities should include time for hygiene—taking a shower, brushing teeth, combing hair, etc,–followed by a nutritious breakfast, rich in complex carbohydrates for energy and protein for brain health.  Breakfast can be followed by morning chores or morning study time, including taking care of a pet if applicable.  (Taking care of a pet builds a sense of responsibility in the ADHD child).

Afternoon Activities

The block of time between school and your evening meal should be very well structured.  This brief time should include a healthy afternoon snack, followed by homework and structured outdoor play.  Try to avoid activities such as watching television or playing video games, activities which neither teaches concentration nor releases pent up energy.

Evening Activities

ADHD children should be encouraged to help in preparing the healthy evening meal for the family.  After dinner, parents should schedule activities and games that involve cooperation, and activities that will help children improve their focus and concentration.  Relaxing activities, those that can help the ADHD child wind down before going to bed, should also be regularly implemented.

Creating a routine that slowly builds good habits, sets realistic goals, incorporates exercise and relaxation and rewards for good behavior can be very beneficial in managing many of the problem symptoms and behaviors of ADHD, and can vastly improve the likelihood of academic and social success.