(4 min read)
Many of us struggle to get out of the house on time for school, sports, activities, etc. Kids with ADHD need organization and processes that enable them to succeed and be independent. Let’s explore some ways to build these routines to encourage independence and success for the kids.
Why is it hard for ADHD kids to be on time?
The brain of a kid with ADHD can be swimming with hundreds of ideas. Focusing on the task of “getting ready and leaving the house” might be drowned out by thoughts of school, TV, video games, the dog, friends, and many other items.
I have also noticed that the concept of time can be difficult for ADHD kids to grasp. They might not “feel” how long 15 minutes takes to pass. They might not realize that the activity they are doing now (e.g., building Legos) might take one hour to complete and they might need to stop short of finishing if they need to leave the house in 15 minutes.
We can help cut through the noise and teach the kids to manage their time with planning and guidance.
Prepare shoes, bags, and accessories in advance
Backpacks, school papers, laptops, athletic shoes, sports bags can be strewn about the home or car. How many times have you had to look EVERYWHERE because your kid put the object somewhere and forgot?
Or are there designated storage locations and your kid just doesn’t use them?
I am going to help you see when a process is broken and not working for you. You might think that the process is great and “should” work but if it’s not stop trying to force it. Sometimes we have to put aside our egos and build a process that meets the kid’s needs in kid-friendly way.
STEP ONE: as the grown-up you can decide first where you think the shoes, backpacks, etc. should be stored
STEP TWO : is Step One working? If the answer is “yes” then celebrate! You don’t need to change anything.
If the answer is “no” then continue to Step Three.
STEP THREE: pick up the backpack/shoes/baseball glove/etc. and tell the kid to walk with you. Tell them that this object needs to be put away in a place that the “kid will remember where it is.” Walk and talk back and forth to help the kid figure out WHERE this location is.
Feel free to revisit this routine if the kid-selected location for the object is too difficult for them to remember.
When and How to give reminders
After tackling where to store the important objects for school and sports/activities we need to move onto helping the kids understand how to manage their time.
We’ve all been in a moment where we are completely focused on our book/TV show/social media/work and we lose track of time!
Kids lose track of time too. But unlike adults they might not have a sense of urgency about “being on time” and why that would even be important.
So let’s talk about giving kids with ADHD reminders about staying on task and on schedule.
- We have to be careful to not remind TOO MANY times or we run the risk of sounding annoying and being tuned out by our kids.
- Pick a few key times to remind the kid of WHAT they need to do and WHEN.
- Choose your words carefully and keep your tone of voice calm.
- A reminder like, “You have baseball practice tonight at 7:00 pm.” will be well-received compared to, “You’d better be on time for practice tonight!”
Ask for the kid’s opinion on leave-the-house routines
In my experience the kids will accept and remember the routines if they have a say in creating them. Try to give your kid as much decision-making power as possible when creating routines for themselves.
Kids who create, remember, and succeed with their own routines feel more confident and empowered.
My favorite way to collaborate with kids to create routines is by asking curious questions. Practice asking open-ended questions that force the ADHD kid to deeply think about what it important to them and what the like/want. Do not settle for answers of “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.” Keeping tweaking your questions to narrow-in on the the motivation behind the issue. Just make sure the repeated questions don’t sound like an interrogation.
Practice the routine and adjust if needed
You might be wondering WHO needs to practice. My answer is EVERYONE!
Grown-ups can practice observing, asking effective questions, and understanding the kid’s point of view.
Kids can practice their routines and also giving their grown-up feedback – telling them when a routine is too hard or just not working anymore.
Keep the lines of communication open so you both are encouraged to talk back and forth. Kids will believe they can come to you with any problem and you will help and onto criticize. And you will believe IN YOURSELF that you have the process needed to help your kids troubleshoot problems with their organization and routines.