If you have ADHD kids or have ADHD yourself, your biggest challenge will be to organize an ADHD friendly home. If you succeed, this simply means:
- the house is easy to navigate
- you know where things are
- things are rarely lost
- time spent looking for things is cut to a minimum.
- clutter is reduced to a reasonable amount!
If you or your child are easily distracted, impulsive and cannot focus on task, you can see how important all the above factors are. They can really make a positive difference!
Sounds like Utopia? Let’s have a look .
1) Overwhelmed by all the things you have to get done and all the shopping you have to do? Start with lists. Simple lists on the noticeboard. The moment you think of something to buy wrote it down. Easier said than done as the ADHD brain is distracted immediately so that you may take a while to actually get to the list and remember what you have to buy. But at least you know where the list is!
2) If you are into apps for your iPhone, there are home routine ones which allow you to keep a record of things to do, check off things achieved. You can organize routines on a daily basis and you get gold stars for achieving them. This helps with motivation and encouragement. If your kids like these apps, they can start using them too. It is a great way to get hi tech to help us out.
3) The kids’ room is a mess. The toys are all over the place and you have to struggle to get these cleared before bedtime as they are a likely hazard. The best way is to organise a toy clearing up competition and try to beat the previous record. You already have the bins bought so that the whole operation can be done in three minutes flat. But it gets the kids involved and it can add up their points and rewards which are all religiously posted on the behavior chart on the fridge.
4) How do you know when your home needs de cluttering? The answer is simple. You are losing things far too often and there are certain areas of the house which are almost no go areas. That’s when we have to start to think seriously about de cluttering. My garage is a good example! It is estimated that almost 60% of the British population are seriously affected. But without going into the Feng Shui philosophy, clutter
- drains you of vital energy
- occupies much needed space
- increases stress levels when you are frantically looking for something
- eats up time
You can encourage your kids to get rid of unused toys and also clothes they never wear and try to do the same for your own things. Buy lots of bins for the things that are kept. Doing a twenty minute stint of decluttering every evening can be therapeutic.
5) How homework friendly is your home? What areas are designated for this daily task? You may not be there to help so that is when you should consider asking a trusted student who is a neighbour or relative to help out. But you have to be sure that they know what they are doing. Build in breaks, help breakdown the tasks, encourage with rewards and so on. These are standard procedures. A quiet area where there are no distractions is essential
6) Buy a stability ball. Or get a wiggly seat. The latter are much more portable and they are simply inflatable cushions which you can put on a chair. They are great for allowing kids wiggling while trying to keep their balance.
There is no need to sit still if you have to focus when you have ADHD.
In fact we need a secondary physical movement such as foot tapping to help us concentrate. If you read Dr. John Ratey’s book, ‘Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’, you will see where he mentions these movements actually increase the dopamine and norepinephrine brain transmitters which we need to stay on task. The stability ball is perfect because the physical act of balancing on the ball helps the brain to function better. Many schools have bought these as study aids.
7) Rules, rules, rules. I will spare you theSOSNanny bit where we have a family meeting and establish the rules. But seriously, these should be written down and especially to establish what are the limits of acceptable and inappropriate behavior. Rewards and consequences are all there and this is great to refer to when things are getting tense. It also avoids good cop, bad cop parenting as both spouses are signed up to these.
8) Food, glorious food. Who says that what we eat will not affect how our brains work? There is now so much research on this that I do not know where to begin. Here are some key points.
- Our brains use up 20% of the total energy we need for our bodies (according to The Scientific American).
- We have to eat to ensure maximum efficiency. That means fewer mood swings, less irritability, more energy, better sleep and improved academic performance.
- If we feed our kids with less processed foods, more protein at breakfast and more Omega 3 foods such as fish and nuts, we are already on the way to a more ADHD friendly diet. According to the Obesity magazine, a lot of people on weight loss programs are suffering from ADHD. Impulsivity is the main culprit here.
9) Routines. Kids with ADHD need routine because they will be less distracted, will become more efficient and will also learn gradually some time management skills. The secret here is to make sure that these are seamless, they are just part and parcel of family life. There is no debate, they just happen, day in, day out and they really do make a difference. They also help enormously with sleep problems as bedtime routine here is essential especially with kids who may also be suffering from a sleep disorder.
10) Reading all the above may seem a bit regimental so make sure that there are moments when you can relax and have fun. Organise green time with your kids so that everybody can enjoy themselves. Exercise is a great way to burn off all that hyperactivity and helps parents enormously too. Not to mention the great bonding that can really cement a happy family.
Robert Locke has researched and written extensively about ADHD issues and parenting for several years. You can visit his blog on problem kids .