Many children and adolescents with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) have a hard time keeping track of their assignments, after-school activities, doctor’s appointments, and other daily tasks and commitments. Parents, of course, often take on the responsibility of reminding them about these things and making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. While that certainly helps in the short term and can minimize parenting headaches, providing kids affected by ADHD with opportunities and tools to develop organizational skills is a better long-term strategy.
Helping kids with ADHD keep track of their schedules ideally should begin at a young age with at least keeping them aware of what their schedule is. A large calendar in a common area, a color-coded, hour-by-hour schedule, or a similar item is especially helpful for preschool and elementary school-aged children. Older children and teens may also benefit from calendars on tablets, smartphones, and other portable devices. This can reinforce the idea that technology can be useful as well as fun.
The following tips are suggested for keeping track of activities on a device:
- Put the school day, after-school activities, doctor’s appointments, trips, etc. into a calendar app. Ideally, it should be synced with one on the family computer.
- Have a shared family calendar, but allow your child to have their own private calendar.
- Encourage them to use alerts as reminders. In some instances, having teens set alerts to go off when they are in specific locations (places outside of school) could be helpful.
For younger children and teens, using a whiteboard or some sort of visual list of tasks can be helpful. Older children and teens often benefit from using task lists on electronic devices (provided they have frequent access to them). However, often kids (and adults, too) put items on a task list and forget to check it, so the tasks do not get done. Thus, here are some suggestions for maximizing the effectiveness of electronic to-do lists:
- Have your child or teen download a few different ones to see what format they like best.
- Especially for younger children, set up lists so you also have access to them.
- For children/teens of all ages, have a private to-do list and a shared one so your child can add items they need you to do (complete permission slips, etc.) and you can add items for them to do (pick up milk after school, etc.).
- Make sure alerts go off at times when your child/teen realistically is able to do the task.
- Take advantage of apps that integrate a task list and calendar and visually show tasks on the calendar at the time they are scheduled to be completed.
- Don’t have your child/teen put every little thing they need to do on the list (say, 20 or 30 items on a single list) because it may be overwhelming and thus decrease the likelihood they follow through on completing items.
No matter which tools you use to help your child or teen with time management, electronic or otherwise, it is important to help them build organizational skills from a young age that extend beyond you constantly reminding them. Learning not only where to be and what to do, but doing so on their own, fosters feelings of self-efficacy and accomplishment, decreases reliance on parents, and is a core skill they can use throughout their lives.
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