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Simplifying, Organizing, and Structuring the Home Environment: For Parents of Children with ADHD

You will find that your child’s ability to progress in nearly all areas of self-management and social interaction increases when his environment is organized and structured to meet his unique needs. If your child is physically impulsive or accident-prone, take the time to unclutter and safety-proof your home. Some children with ADHD may benefit from an orderly physical environment with a place for each object, while keeping the environment (eg, your child’s room) organized may be a hopeless task for others. Try helping your child organize his room at a level he can manage.

Daily routines are an absolute necessity for many children with ADHD. Consistent limitsetting with predictable consequences, along with limited choices (not “What do you want to eat?” but “Do you want an apple or a boiled egg?”), also make your child’s world more manageable and help him meet his goals. Written lists of chores or other daily tasks are especially useful in helping your child keep track of what he needs to do, and is an excellent habit for him to carry into adolescence and adulthood.

When considering how to structure your child’s day-to-day experiences, it may help to picture your growing child as a construction project in progress. The limits, lists, routines, and other measures you are putting in place today are like scaffolding that will provide the necessary support as he develops fully. As he turns these routines into daily habits and becomes more self-directed, some of these supports can be gradually removed while his underlying functioning remains well in place. (You may no longer have to create homework checklists with him, for example, because he has learned to make them himself.) Far from “babying” your child, helping to structure and organize his world allows him to add to his competencies and experience many more small triumphs, increasing his self-esteem.

Just as you have observed that your child may feel less overwhelmed when his home life is well organized, so you may find that organizing your own family life as thoroughly as possible will help you feel calmer and more in control. (This is even more likely to be the case, of course, if you have ADHD.) With the number of medical visits, teachers’ conferences, and treatment reviews necessary to maintain your child’s well-being and continued progress, a family calendar including all scheduled activities can be an essential for many families. Daily lists of tasks to perform and errands to run will help you stay organized just as they help your child. Many parents find it worthwhile to devote a private 10 minutes to half an hour before the kids get up in the morning to “regroup”—thinking about everything that must be accomplished that day and arranging tasks in order of priority. Make sure that any plan is realistic and not overwhelming.

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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