I ran across a post on Facebook recently that asked about managing the chaos that having a child with ADHD can create in the home. It is important to remember that ADHD is classified as a disability because it interferes with day-to-day living; therefore, just as with physical disabilities, you may will want to make some changes at home to accommodate your child’s ADHD and to create a less stressful environment for everyone. I would like to offer you some tried-and-true suggestions.
1. Create boundaries. Accommodating your child at home means finding ways to be supportive, positive and sensitive to your child. This is one of the most loving things you do. Being supportive, however, does not mean that there are no boundaries. On the contrary, clear boundaries are important because they help create order in a disordered mind. All children respond best to positive reinforcement, and children with ADHD are no exception. Consequences are appropriate as well; however, consequences should be a logical result of the action, not an unrelated punishment. The idea is to teach, not frustrate. Keep in mind that a major symptom of ADHD is difficulty remembering things; therefore, children with ADHD will need repetition to remember boundaries, especially if you are setting some new ones. Writing down the boundaries, or rules, for the home where everyone can see them is an excellent additional support.
2. Establish routines and schedules. Routines and schedules that are written down provide a sense of control and reassurance that children with ADHD need. Routines for getting ready for school, routines for dinner time, routines for homework time, and routines for bedtime are some key areas that both you and your child will benefit from establishing. Schedules, even if they change from day-to-day, help a child with ADHD by providing predictability and advanced notice of things to come. Children with ADHD to not handle the unexpected well, and routines and schedules reduce the risk of frustrating your child. As with house boundaries and rules, put it in writin, and keep in mind that routines and schedule should be helpful and enjoyable, not tedious. Include your child in establishing these routines and schedules as much as possible. Identifiy the nonnegotiables, and allow your child to have some input. Review the next day’s schedule the evening before, and point out any deviations from normal routines. My own daughter likes to write our routines down and decorate them before we hang them. The whole process has become fun for us, and I hope you are able to reach this point as well.
3. Provide space to be ADHD. Ideally, a home should be comfortable for everyone. A child with ADHD does not do well in a home that is full of “don’t touches” and decor such as white carpet, furniture that stains easily, or has breakables everywhere. Children with ADHD move a lot, are prone to spills, and are not known for being orderly and neat. Reduce stress in the home by furnishing it and decorating it comfortably. Provide a place for everything, easily identifiable and accessible, keeping in mind that the goal is better organization, not perfection. Reality means there will be some clutter and mess. Set up a bulletin board to keep track of important papers, throwing out the rest. Schedule regular times to thoroughly clean out rooms and closets, with your help, and get rid of unnecessary items–broken toys or toys they no longer play with, clothing that is torn or too small, and other unnecessary items. The more a child with ADHD has to keep track of, the harder it will be. Create 5 minute pick-up times scattered throughout the day, and make them part of the routine. This decreases build-up of clutter and reduces longer clean-up times that are more difficult and frustrating. Make it fun–have a mini-contest or turn on music.
Providing space also includes designating areas of your home, indoors and out, for activities such as art and rowdy play. I am fortunate to have a very large basement area that is perfect for rowdy play, especially in the winter when Colorado weather may not invite outdoor play. My daughter and I also have an area for art supplies. She loves to garden, so we have a garden and flowers; however, there is plenty of room to run and play, and a ball in the flowerbed is not devastating.
Although I have ADHD as well, I am a completely different animal than my daughter. I prefer order, with everything put away and neat. My daughter, the typcical child with ADHD, does not. One of the most important changes I made in our lives was to relax. It wasn’t easy, and still is not, but I had to learn to find balance, for her sanity and mine.
I would love to hear your stories on establishing comfort and order in your home, and if you have additonal suggestions for managing children with ADHD at home, please do share.