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Daily Routines and Rhythms

Remember that the success of rules and strategies within your home is influenced by the quality of the relationship that you have with your child and/or adolescent.

  • Keep your child on a daily schedule. Try to keep the time that your child wakes up, eats, bathes, leaves for school, and goes to sleep about the same each day.
    – Be prepared for transitions and shifts in routines or projects.
    – Try to give time warnings when an activity or event is going to be taking place. Give 15-, 10-, and 5-minute warnings for changes in activity. Examples are coming to dinner, doing homework, turning off the television set, bedtime, etc.
    – Schedule unconditional “fun” time regularly.
  • Cut down on distractions. Identify the things that distract your child the most at important times (like during homework), but do not jump to conclusions—the distractions for each child are different. As you identify them, eliminate them one by one.
  • Develop a homework plan with your child.
    – Create a special homework space with your child and stock it with supplies for projects and
    – Keep in mind, some children like having a mini office set up. Others need to be close to mom or dad.
    – Use a homework incentive chart with rewards.
    – Have a second set of schoolbooks at home.
    – Divide homework into small working parts with breaks.
    – Use special timers to keep your child on track.
    – Share homework detail with other family members.
    – Save a spot near the door for the school backpack so your child can grab it on the way out the door (place a hook by the back door to hang it up after homework).
  • Organize your house. If your child has specific and logical places to keep his schoolwork, toys, and clothes, he is less likely to lose them.
    – Develop “house rules,” monitor daily, and reward for compliance of rules. (Pick one house rule weekly to review and discuss as a family.)
    – Provide a safe space in the home for active play.
  • Use charts and checklists. These written reminders can help your child track his progress with chores or homework. Keep instructions brief. Offer frequent, friendly reminders to check his list and make sure each task has been completed.
    – Implement the use of a school-home tracker. (A tracker is a checklist of things needed each day to take to school and a checklist of things needed to bring home from school.)
    – Post a checklist by the morning exit door to the school bus listing the things that need to go to school, such as backpack, shoes, coat, gloves, and lunch box.
    – Focus on the effort your child made to do their work and chores, not just the completion of the task.
  • Limit choices. Help your child learn to make good decisions by giving him only 2 or 3 options at a time.
    – Foster “best outcomes” by creating and encouraging a sense of resiliency and participation.
    o Validate your child’s positive plans even if you feel some things need to be done differently.
    o Express empathy for concerns and problems.
    o Include your teenager in the decision-making process and problem-solving issues.
    o Encourage involvement in family activity planning and outings.
    o Provide sincere praise, even for the small things.
  • Set small, reachable goals. Aim for systematic step-by-step progress rather than instant results. Be sure that your child understands that he can succeed best by taking small steps and slowly building on those successes.
    – Keep the plan child-centered. Even though the plan may work well for you, make sure that it works for your child or it will turn out to be ineffective.

The First Hour of the Day

The morning routine can be a daunting task for all parents and children. Pressures to get to school and work can feel overwhelming at times. For a child with ADHD, getting the day started can be especially challenging. To ease the stress on your child, create a consistent and predictable schedule for rising and set up a manageable routine. It may help to put specific steps in writing or pictures keeping the tasks clear and brief. For example, alarm rings>wash face >get dressed (with clothes laid out the night before)>eat breakfast>take medication>brush teeth.

Remember to give immediate praise and feedback when your child accomplishes tasks of the “morning routine.” This will help motivate your child to succeed and encourage independence.

If your child takes medication, your doctor may recommend waking your child up 30 to 45 minutes before the usual wake time to give medication and then let your child “rest” in bed for the next 30 minutes. This rest period allows the medication to begin working so that your child can be better able to participate in the morning routine.

Last Updated
ADHD: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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