Updated: Jun 4
If your children have ADHD, your ability to plan, pinpoint or avoid tension points is vital to creating a calm evening. Here's a practical guide to making your family's evening less tense and more relaxed.
"We need to go; please put that down and get moving!"
"You still didn't eat the dinner I put in front of you, and you're going to be hungry."
"Did you prepare the book report? We talked about this last week. It’s now due tomorrow!”
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you’ve probably had similarly frustrating exchanges in your house. It's common for evenings to be filled with tension over timing, scheduling and the day's demands.
Playtime. Meals. Baths. During your child's earliest years, adults managed their routine. Playtime. Meals. Baths.
The activities required time and care. But organizing the What? When? And How? did not require your child's input.
Enter grade school and everything changes. Homework. Playdates. Afterschool activities. 'Urgent' school supplies. And, of course, "I want, I need, and I don't feel like it."
Children with ADHD have added difficulty organizing time, planning for obligations, and measuring consequences. As a parent, you can restore calm to your evening by helping your child overcome those difficulties.
6 steps to calmer evenings
Spot the disaster zones
Plan it out
Gather family feedback
Ditch the non-essentials
Celebrate the wins
Optimize, rinse, repeat
1. Spot the disaster zones
Every family has disaster zones. The trick is to recognize them. Here are some common ones among families with ADHD:
Transitions - between child drop off and pick up, or from one activity to the next.
ADHD meds ‘rebound’ - as ADHD meds begin to wear off, your child may feel restless, have a lower frustration threshold, or become more aggressive.
Task overload - trying to jam too many tasks into an unrealistic amount of time.
'Deadtime' - without proper planning, too much child deadtime leads to frustration and bickering.
Manpower - depending on what's going on, you may need another parent or babysitter to help with homework, play with your other child, etc.
2. Plan it out
Each week, plan on a calendar the out-of-the-ordinary obligations you and your children have for that particular week - dentist check-ups, birthday parties, etc. Then go day by day and structure each day's logistics, allowing enough time for each activity to unfold calmly: school carpool, meal prep, dinner…Now take the weekly activities, and find the best way to incorporate them into your daily routine.
Make sure to advance shop for upcoming school events, stock up on birthday party gifts, and arrange carpooling help. The planning takes effort. But it's well worth the calm you gain.
3. Gather family feedback
Kids are sharp. They have an eye for spotting the things we miss. They also like to be included in adult activities. So take the time to run the weekly schedule past your kids and gather their input.
I’ve tried this on my own children and was pleasantly surprised at their ability to add in errands I’d missed and suggest help from places I hadn't thought about seeking it. They may also want to join you on errands you might have thought to squeeze in without them, providing you with extra manpower. The more you incorporate your family's inputs, the more likely your schedule will suit your family's needs and create a calmer evening for you.
4. Ditch the non-essentials
Ever have the evening go haywire because you just had to…organize the messy closet or restock the dwindling pet food supply? We've all fallen down that rabbit hole. It's common to notice problem points and feel an urgent need to take care of them. But if your evening is already full, doing so will add unwanted chaos.
Instead, try to remember if it's not on the schedule, it probably can wait. If you need to, grab a pen and slot it in time to deal with the problem later. Then stick to the schedule, and lean into the calm.
5. Celebrate the wins
We've said it before, and we'll repeat it. The best way to encourage progress is to celebrate it. Verbally, with affection, and with treats (yes, bribery)! So go ahead, tell your child how proud you are of them for:
Taking Ollie for a walk
Charge their iPhone
Hanging their coat up
Then pat yourself on the back for a well-organized, calmer evening.
6. Optimize, rinse, repeat
When company teams launch a new product or run a campaign, they meet afterward to review and optimize results. What was the project's 'cost' (time and money)? What worked, what didn't, and why? Then they optimize.
What worked well in your home this week? What didn't? Be analytical and forgiving about it. The point isn't to blame. It's to improve next week's wins. Pinpoint three takeaways for next week, and then apply them to the schedule. Your evenings should start to go a lot smoother.
Did our advice work for you? We'd love to hear how it went. Comment below.
Afternoons in ADHD families pose a greater challenge due to organizational difficulties.
You can help make your evenings calmer by planning ahead
We've included 6 helpful planning suggestions. Check them out!