As parents, especially of children with ADHD, we’ve all heard that structure is important. But what exactly is structure, and how do we introduce it into our family? Put simply, structure provides organization and predictability. It makes daily functioning more manageable, and helps our children to focus on one thing at a time. And this is particularly important for children with ADHD who struggle with their ability to regulate themselves and to maintain their focus when there are so many distractions pulling them in different directions.
The following are some suggestions for how to introduce structure into your family. You will want to tweak these suggestions to fit your family and their particular needs. And remember, success takes time so don’t give up, it’s worth the wait! And if you find yourself struggling, please give us a call at Coastal Psychological Group, we’re here to help you!
1. GOOD MORNING! Mornings are often described by parents as one of the most difficult times of the day
We all need to get out of the house on time. Suggestions for how to make this happen include:
• Prepare whatever you can the night before, i.e., bathe or shower, select outfits and lay them out, pack backpacks and leave them by the door or in the car, discuss breakfast options and leave out whatever does not have to be refrigerated to expedite food preparation, make lunches and place them in lunch boxes in the refrigerator.
• Discuss detail by detail what your child does right after he/she awakens, i.e., go to the bathroom, wash your hands and face, brush your teeth, get dressed, come downstairs for breakfast, etc.
• While your child is dressing, check in to see how she/he is coming along and offer praise whenever possible
• REDUCE THE LIKELIHOOD OF DISTRACTIONS: do not turn on TVs in the morning, make a no electronics rule for mornings.
• If your child really, really, really wants his/her phone or to read a book, this can only happen after he/she is safely seat-belted in either the car or school bus.
2. AFTER SCHOOL – Let’s get that homework done without the battles!
This is a time of day when a child’s ability to self-regulate is called upon, and for most children with ADHD it’s a real struggle, especially after putting in an entire day’s worth of academic, emotional, and behavioral effort. Try some of these ideas to improve productivity:
• Offer a healthy snack and set a timer for when snack-time is over.
• Maintain a start time for homework, which helps to establish a homework routine.
• Stay nearby, don’t go off and leave your child alone. Many children with ADHD stay more focused when an adult is nearby or works with them.
• If your child appears overwhelmed, have him/her complete a small part of an assignment at a time.
• For longer assignments, block part of the page or fold it in half so it doesn’t seem so tough.
• Have your child do some of the assignment, take a short break, and then do the rest.
• It may be helpful to play soft music or white noise in the background to block noisy things in the house.
• Discuss before homework starts a fun activity that your child can do after the completion of homework. This may serve as a motivator for your child to successfully complete homework assignments.
3. DINNER’S READY! As a working mother myself, I know how difficult it can be to corral everyone to the dinner table at the same time.
Whether you order in take-out food or prepare a meal, it is important to try to maintain a consistent dinnertime schedule. This is a time when family members can come together to connect with one another.
One of the things we enjoy doing in our family is having everyone take a turn saying what was really good about their day, and what was not so good. Some really good teaching opportunities come up during this discussion and it’s a great time to find out what everyone’s been up to.
And don’t forget, make sure your children help with setting the table, clearing the table, putting food away, and washing the dishes or putting them in the dishwasher. Bon Appetit!
4. GOOD NIGHT – A good night’s sleep is as important as good nutrition and exercise.
Many children with ADHD do not want to go to sleep because it’s kind of boring to them. After all, there’s still so much to do! Here are some suggestions to try to help induce relaxation and calm:
• Try to have your child get into bed the same time every night.
• Offer a light healthy snack (e.g., rice cake with a small amount of almond butter, jam, or avocado).
• Read with or to your child.
• You can do a mindfulness exercise or meditate with your child.
• Have a sweet good night ritual, e.g., hugs, a nighttime poem or prayer