How to Keep Yourself Organized So You Can Help Your ADHD Kid Do the Same

parenting kids with adhd

ADHD students need organization. Therefore, as the parent, you need organization. Read on for tips on how to keep yourself organized so you can help your ADHD kid do the same.

Why ADHD Kids Need Organization

ADHD children tend to have difficulty planning ahead and being organized. This likely means that you are working hard to keep them on task. You know the tools you need to keep your kid organized, but it seems that in the process, your own organization has fallen by the wayside. It's time to improve your organization skills so you can set a strong, organized example for your child.

According to Psychology Today, more organized people feel more in control. Control: wouldn't that be a wonderful feeling to have? Read on for ways to be more organized so you can regain your sanity and help your ADHD kid be more organized.

How to Get Organized

It seems that some people think you need to be hypnotized in order to become this mythical organized human, but that's simply not true. By changing a few daily habits, and starting a few new ones, you can become the organized person of your dreams.


Make Lists

This one might seem like it's just too simple, but it can have a huge impact on your daily organization. Making a list frees your brain up so you don't have to memorize more than absolutely necessary.

As an example, think of the last time you went to the grocery store. Did you have a list and know exactly what you needed, zipping in and out quickly? Or did you stand at the end of an aisle and rack your brain for why you walked through the doors?

If you had a list, you likely left the store much faster than if you didn't. Additionally, you probably didn't get home and unpack your bags only to remember the things that you forgot to pick up, requiring you to go back tomorrow. If you shop with your tiny ones, you know that a quick grocery trip is one to be valued, so make your life easier and make a list!

Centralized Lists

The important thing about making a list is keeping it in a known location and not having multiple different lists on the same topic floating around. Personally, and this may seem like overkill, I meal plan every week and keep a list of meals and the associated grocery list in my notes app on my phone. When I run out of something, I add it to the list for the next week. I visit the grocery store once a week, which frees up vast amounts of time to do other things that are more enjoyable.

While grocery lists are the example here, the same can be true of all areas where you need a little help keeping track of your thoughts. Keep a list of what you need to do today. Maybe you need a list for today's tasks as well as weekly or long-term tasks.


Lists are imperative for ADHD children as well. Keep a list of projects and assignments for the week, or break down studying for a test into daily to-do lists so it isn't packed into one single day. You might consider making your daily to-do list every night, when the kids are asleep and you have a moment to think. Then the next day, you're ready to go!

Additionally, if you have thoughts that are bogging you down, write them out. Then they're out of your brain and you have more capacity to think about other things. The same idea goes for your ADHD child, so try this the next time they seem like they have a lot on their mind.

Keep a Calendar

Again, this might seem simple, but it's a small helper that can make a big impact. Keeping track of your life, kids' activities, birthdays, parent-teacher conferences, dental appointments - it can all be overwhelming. Put it in your calendar and take stock of your upcoming monthly, weekly and nightly appointments for the following day.


Also, keep one calendar. Some people like to separate personal, work, kids' and other events, but this ends up giving you more calendars to reference and track. One calendar to rule them all, and try color-coding to easily tell what is what.

ADHD Students and Calendars

Calendars are also essential for ADHD children, as it helps them track schoolwork and other priorities. ADDitude magazine recommends weekly calendars for students with ADHD and their families, which can also help students prioritize. Consider a family command center for this task, with a dry-erase weekly calendar. Seeing everyone's weekly commitments can help you and your student start planning how they can best study, considering their other obligations and assignments.

Put it Away

Everything in your home should have its own home. Your purse, keys, reusable grocery bags, shoes and so forth. Everything should have a place so that, when you're in a hurry, you will know exactly where it's stored. If you keep your things in their homes, your home can be tidy and your brain at peace.

It's one thing to have a home for all of these objects, but sometimes putting items away is the real struggle. We are all guilty of walking in the door and dropping everything in the hall. However, this leads to a cluttered space and makes it hard to find your keys the next day. It also sets a poor example for your children, who will likely do the same thing with their own backpacks, shoes and coats. Taking just a few minutes to put things away as soon as you walk in the door keeps you from having to do it later.

If it's impossible to do when you walk in the door, take a few minutes at night to pick up the spaces that make you the craziest, or the spaces that need to be the most organized to keep your family running smoothly. That ten minutes will go a long way the next day when you're dashing out the door and your child is looking for their backpack.


ADHD Students and Central Locations

It can be challenging for a child with ADHD to stay organized, but having a place for everything can help. By modeling that you should put your keys in their spot when you walk in the door, your child may connect that they should put their math homework in the math folder as soon as it is finished. Also, when your child is getting ready to study, knowing where to find things can minimize distractions.

Be Okay With Okay

Organization is good. Perfection is impossible. As Annette Reyman, former president of the National Association of Professional Organizers (Philadelphia chapter), told Huffington Post in August 2015, those with the strongest organization skills let go of perfectionism, as perfectionists are often less organized. 'They concentrate on all the fine details and end up becoming immobilized by (them),' Reyman said.

Let's go back to the example of keeping the hall clean. There is a difference between putting away items and feeling that the space needs to be de-cluttered in addition to dusted, swept and vacuumed. This is both overwhelming and a recipe for failure.

Perfectionism is not the best example to set for your child. They likely won't ever feel perfect, but if they think they must be, they may become discouraged and quit before they even try. Additionally, if you are down on yourself for not being perfect, your child may pick up on your negative attitude.

As we know, it is important for ADHD children to stay motivated and encouraged. Be okay with okay and praise yourself for what you've accomplished, just as you would praise your child.


Ask for Help

Organized people know their limitations, and they are willing to ask for help. By keeping that command center calendar organized, you can quickly look at it to see if other members of the family might be able to help out at certain times. Molly Maid has a handy chores list to see what chores are age-appropriate for children. Don't be afraid to ask your ADHD student to do their share, such as taking out the trash or walking the dog.

Completing chores can give your child a feeling of accomplishment, but it's also important to model asking for help. As ADHD student Rae Jacobson of the Child Mind Institute explains, if you show your child that asking for help is okay, they will likely do the same.


Final Thoughts

If you're still working on establishing a routine with your child, ADDitude magazine offers a free print-out that can help you create an organized day for your ADHD child.

Just a few basic changes to your daily routine can make you a more organized person. Keep centralized lists, maintain a family calendar, put things in their place and be okay with okay. Additionally, don't be afraid to ask for help. Taking these steps will not only make you more organized so you can help your ADHD kid do the same, but will also model positive behavior for your child. Everyone wins!

By Michelle Garrigan-Durant
February 2017
parenting kids with adhd parenting tips & tricks

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