The Best Strategies for ADHD Kids

Managing the symptoms of ADHD can be tough for the whole family.   

I love to share what has worked for us and these strategies for ADHD kids have helped our family – some have been lifesavers (and continue to be !) some work better with one kid than the other, some are my favorites – but all of them are worth mentioning.

As a mom of two ADHD boys, I am always looking for new strategies to help my kids.

You might just find the right one for you.

To keep it simple, I have included strategies for home in this post and have a post for ADHD Strategies at School(and homeschool!) 

This list may seem overwhelming, we don’t use all of these ADHD strategies all the time. But they fit in nicely to different seasons and ages and stages of our family. Try one of two that resonate with you. 

The Best ADHD Strategies for Kids 

Follow a routine.

I love routines…it’s part of the reason why I always love to get back to school in the fall. I find such comfort in certain things being done consistently on a daily or weekly basis.

And guess what? So do kids!

Routines are predictable, comforting and can make things calmer in an otherwise stressful household.

For ADHD kids, routines help them remember tasks involving multiple steps that would otherwise be overwhelming and stressful.

Routines created at different times throughout the day can also serve as stop gaps, or breathers, where kids can relax and recharge and feel less stress. They are external controls which can be so helpful for our kids who find it hard to control themselves.

Having routines also means less nagging from moms and dads (Yeah!). 

If you are not big into routines for your adhd kids, think again. In fact, I bet there are already things you do that fall into the category of a routine.

Helpful places to  create a routine :

A Morning Routine can include : getting dressed, morning hygiene, eating/fixing breakfast, packing a lunch, putting a backpack by the door.

An After school routine might include: emptying out backpack, lunch container emptied and ready for the next day, a quick break to destress, snack time, completing homework, and homework back in backpack.

A Bedtime routine can include: brushing teeth/washing face, bathtime, book reading, tidying bedroom, clothes in hamper, clothes laid out for next day, meditation practice, read aloud, and solo time with reading light.

Chores can be done on a daily, weekly, and seasonal basis. (Sunday a.m. bathroom cleaning anyone?)

Build a routine with screen time: Set a daily amount of time or a daily window (like 4pm to 6pm only) I like weekly options, too. (ie, screen time only on weekends, Friday Family  Movie night, etc.).

Meal Prep routine can include: setting the table, cooking prep, cooking, clearing the table, dishwasher/dryer, sweeping. 

Sunday Night Routine: Family meeting, laundry, backpack ready, family dinner, 

Routines may take a few days or even weeks to become second hand, but once they do, they often run themselves. My kids behavior is so much better when there are no surprises and they know exactly what is expected of them.

Include Routines for Connection

Okay, I had to make a whole separate section for this special kind of routine – and for good reason.  I love routines about connection even more!  

Let’s face it, we are all crazy busy, even when we try hard not to be.  I love to create little routines to connect with my kids and husband at different times during the day.

My kids feel loved, supported, and special when I include a little time just for them, each day. 

Some good ideas for routines that connect:

Leaving the house: Every time one of us leaves the house, we yell, ” X, O before you go!” and we all run to the person leaving to give them a kiss and hug. I love this and I will keep doing it as long as my kids will cooperate. 

Dates with your kids:  We try really hard to have some planned one-on-one time with our kids(with our kids planning the activities most of the time). We have not been doing this often enough and one of my hopes for 2020 is to work this into our routine on a monthly basis. It is the ultimate connection time!

Read-aloud time:  I attribute our long history of connecting over books to my kids amazing reading skill and love of books themselves. There are a few times when reading aloud may happen in our house.  Right before bed is the most popular time.  Dinner time is another time – a little unexpected, but if I feel a need, I read while they eat. Also, on days I am not working, I sneak in more read aloud time with my son who leaves a bit later for school.  

Related: These books have been my favorite to read aloud.

Reading aloud to my kids is just divine! We have created such a huge amount of wonderful connection over good books.  Learn more from Sarah MacKenzie’s blog and her Read Aloud Revival Podcast – she is awesome!

Do you have a fun routine to help you make a quick connection with your ADHD kiddo? Please share in the comments, we’d love to hear it!

Have weekly family meetings

This kind of falls into the routine category, too! See what I mean about routines being so powerful!

Weekly family meetings can be such a great way to preview the week ahead and remind kids of what to expect.  

Sit together in front of your family calendar( We love our wipe board that hangs in the kitchen) and add in commitments or review whats already in place. You can talk about how often an instrument needs to be practiced, schedule in exercise, school events, therapies, etc. so there are no surprises. 

Not only does this help with kids’ anxiety, it also models using a calendar and planning, a skill, which can be a lagging skill for a lot of ADHD kids. 

This is a great time for you to go over what options there are for lunches and plan some of meals, as well.

This strategy alone can be one of the  best things you can do as a family.

Give choices when possible

This could also be called, “Stop micro-managing your ADHD kids life”.

If you think about it, there are so many things we tell our ADHD kids to do. They often don’t have many choices in school, going to therapies, eating what they want, etc.  

I know that often we impose things on our kids – a  healthy diet, therapies, etc. – that takes away a lot of choice for our kids. I hope I am modeling a great way of life, but I know most kids would much rather each junk food and play video games all night.  

So,  give them choices when you can…

My kids make their own lunches from a bunch of healthy options, they help me shop for dinner and pick what we are eating a few nights a week. 

I let them pick their clothing ( I’d love them to wear something other than sweats, but hey, I am not going to argue) and give them as much autonomy as possible in the personal hygiene department. (ie, I don’t bug them about brushing teeth, etc.)

Believe me this is one area I am still working on, but it can be really freeing, too.

Even the youngest of kiddos can have some choices!

What’s one area where you can let your ADHD kiddo have some more choice?

Have a designated calming area(or two!)

When my kids’ emotions spin out of control they need someplace to go…an area that is always open and inviting and helps to bring their emotions back to a well-regulated state. 

Calm down “corners” can come in a variety of shapes and sizes:

  • Some are cozy, quiet, and have adjustable lighting.
  • Some invite noise and movement to get the benefit of expending some energy. 
  • Some are inside and some are outside
  • They may be amongst people or set apart from others. 

All calm down corners should be a place where kids go willingly and realize the benefits they get from them. The idea is not to have a parent imposed naughty corner.

My son has a favorite spot on the sofa that defaults to him when he needs it. We also have a hammock that can be set up inside in a pinch and a big trampoline outdoors that works wonders. 

What does the perfect calm down “corner” for your kiddo look like?

adhd strategies for kids

Help your ADHD child pursue an interest.

One of the best ways to raise a  confident child with ADHD is to let them pursue an interest wholeheartedly!

For many ADHD kids its obvious what their interests are – its the one or two things that they can focus on for long periods of time, without being pushed.

It’s the thing you can’t get them to stop doing.   

For our  kids it’s reading(currently into Manga), building, drawing and learning about WW2 planes, tinkering with anything they can take apart, and playing an instrument.

It’s amazing to see them become good – even great – at something. I’ve seen my kids really start to take pride in their work and feel more confident in their abilities, as a result of ensuring they have time to do exactly as they please. 

Remember, this may mean getting rid of other commitments and prioritizing how they want to spend their time. 

What interest of your ADHD kid can you really get behind?

Related: The Best Activities for ADHD Boys

Practice good sleep hygeine

Good sleep can literally erase a host of unacceptable ADHD behaviors. I learned this early on with my kids – like, just after birth – and now I can be seen going to great lengths to make sure my kids get a good night’s sleep. 

Try one of more of these tips to make sure your kiddo gets the recommended amount of sleep (we aim for 10 hours for an 11 and 13 year old):

  • Create a bedtime routine to signal that is it time to start slowing down
  • Turn off bright lights starting about an hour before bedtime
  • Diffuse calming essential oils, like lavender or frankincense
  • Stop screen time at least and hour (or two) before going to bed
  • Do some light stretching or breathing exercises to calm down
  • Get a red night light that does not interfere with your circadian rhythm
  • Invest in a weighted blanket to ensure a good night’s sleep

My son has a weighted blanket (and I use his old one!) and it is worth every penny. The light compression relaxes him so that he falls asleep easily and stays asleep! We even travel with it!

Work in daily exercise or movement

This one is huge for us. Some really energy burning exercise almost negates all symptoms of ADHD for my kids. 

Studies have shown that even 30 minutes of heart pumping exercise can significantly reduce the symptoms of ADHD. 

Getting them to actually do the exercise can be  another story.  This is one area, my kids don’t always have a choice in because exercise is so vital to their well-being. 

 It can sometimes be difficult to rouse my kids, but once we are out the door, they are active participants.  The trick is to find something they like to do or that is familiar to them. We have several hiking trails we frequent, so even if they don’t particularly want to go, its a known quantity and they will eventually agree. 

Even a 15 minute stroll around the neighborhood can do wonders.

We do things as a family, to model the behavior and for now, my kids don’t stay home alone, so they have to join in.  

At a loss for how to get your kids moving?  You’ll find a whole list of fun things we have made good use of over the years in my BEST ADHD Resources guide. 

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again” works for this ADHD Strategy. 

My oldest is motivated by other kids and crowds – which makes School Athletics a good fit for him. My youngest hates competitive sports, so hiking and biking with the family is a good fit for him.  

Well, that wraps this up for now.! These ideas have been so helpful to us and most of them now are just second nature. But, it wasn’t always like that. We started slowly and added one or two things to figure out what worked for all of us.  

Now it’s your turn. I invite you to try one of these that is new to you.   Or tell me something that you have found invaluable to your ADHD family. What would you add to this list of ADHD Strategies for kids? Please let me know in the comments.