He’s just young and rambunctious. It’s his personality.
These were all the things I told myself when I was in denial. But it was plain and clear: My son, Dylan, had ADHD, which was not officially diagnosed until he was six years old. On a regular basis, he was literally bouncing off the walls…and the bed, and the couch, and even sometimes the kitchen counters right near my sharp knives! Yikes! I felt like all I did was tell him, “No! Stop!” and I was exhausted. I felt so helpless, but then I told myself to take a deep breath and re-frame. Although this was not something I could fix, I could certainly work to improve the situation. I needed to accept and love my son for who he was, but also use all my tools to help him and to keep my household from becoming chaotic daily.
Here are five categories of tips that we have implemented in our household that have really helped. It is important to bear in mind that every child is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
- Stick to a Routine
- Consistency: We make sure to keep Dylan’s schedules and routines, including wake-up and bedtime, consistent each day.
- Visual calendars: We have a giant calendar in our living room, and discuss plans daily. I also sometimes create daily visual schedules so Dylan understands the plan for the day, especially when we are going to try something new.
- Timers: We utilize a timed timer or sand timer to teach him about the passage of time.
- Build in More Time for Transitions
- Build in time buffers: I allow 30 minutes for my son to get dressed, brush his teeth, and put his shoes on. Anytime we walk out the door, I factor in a 15 to 20-minute cushion to travel from our apartment to where our car is parked. That way, I don’t have to stress when he gets distracted. I can calmly and gently draw his attention back to task without stressing about the clock myself.
- Count down to transitions: I also give Dylan plenty of warning that a transition is about to happen: 10 minutes, five minutes, and then two minutes.
- Make eye contact: I make sure I have eye contact and confirmation that Dylan has heard me during these warnings.
- Remain firm and calm: This part is the hardest. I don’t get angry (as much as humanly possible) when it’s time to turn off his iPad or stop playing with his toys. Stopping a preferred activity is REALLY difficult for Dylan. I may need to ask him three times, but he will comply if I remain firm, yet calm.
- Exercise Every Day
- Aim for at least 1hr/day: We make sure that Dylan has the opportunity for at least one hour of intense exercise per day. Running around at the playground with his friends, gardening, swimming, or his new favorite – parkour.
- Vacations are not an exception: When planning vacations, I know that we won’t be lounging around all day (Oh how wonderful that would be!). We need to hike, swim, bike, ski…whatever. Anything. Hanging around and “chilling out” is not an option. Regular, intense exercise is an important outlet for Dylan’s high energy. And, sometimes, we can have an hour or two of quiet time in the afternoon once he is tired out.
- Outsource Homework
- Optimize homework timing: Dylan attends an afterschool program at his school. We purposely signed him up for a program that supports him in completing his homework right after school while his brain is still fresh.
- Remove yourself from the equation, if possible: This one kills me because I am a professional tutor who struggles to help her own son with homework. The parent-child dynamic is so tricky though. It is better for Dylan to complete his homework under someone else’s watchful eye and avoid any fighting about it at home.
- Plan Family Activities around Strength Areas
- Identify strength areas: Dylan is energetic, creative, and athletic. I want him to feel good about himself and acknowledge what he is good at.
- Plan activities that are in-line with strength areas: I don’t want to bring Dylan to a fancy restaurant or a play, and then nag him to sit still the entire time. It negatively impacts our relationship, and nobody has fun. We try to plan family activities that cater to Dylan’s strengths. For example, we will go swimming somewhere and commend him for his endurance as he speeds across the pond.
If your student has ADHD and struggles with at-home or in-school routines, contact Organizational Tutors today to learn more about how executive functioning tutoring can help.