Time Management for Teens and Tweens With ADHD

For teens and tweens with ADHD, simple tasks like cleaning their room or doing homework can seem to take forever, to you and them. And trying to enforce these tasks may often lead to arguments and frustration.

By teaching time management, you can make these daily responsibilities more manageable and lessen the stress for everyone. These life skills will also allow your child to become more independent. He’ll gain confidence in knowing he can take care of himself.

Set Routines

Routines give the day structure, which is helpful for kids with ADHD.

An unplanned day can seem overwhelming to a child with ADHD. There are ways to make things more manageable for you and your teen or tween.

Sit down with your child and make a list of all of his daily responsibilities. Together, break down big activities into smaller steps, and decide how long he needs for each task. Don’t make the schedule just about tasks. Schedule breaks and other activities your child wants to do.

As much as possible, schedule activities for the same times every day, so they’re easier for your teen to remember. If you know your mornings are rushed, why not plan for him to pick out clothes or put homework in his backpack the night before, when the pace is a bit slower?

Put the list where you both can see it. Have your child cross off each item when finished. Kids get a sense of accomplishment from knowing they've completed tasks.

Eliminate Dawdling

It may be scheduled homework time, but when you check in, you find your child still sharpening pencils a half-hour later. It’s common for kids with ADHD to put off doing things.

Stick to the start and end times you agreed on for each task. Set a timer for each activity, and make his goal to finish tasks before the timer dings. Make sure to reward success. An incentive-based program with rewards for positive behavior is the best approach, but there need to be consequences for missing the mark.

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For example, you could:

  • Tell your child: "The kitchen is open at 7:30 a.m. At 7:50 a.m., it closes."
  • Set an alarm to go off at 7:30 a.m. when breakfast starts.
  • Establish a rule that if your child isn't in the kitchen by 7:50, he or she doesn't get breakfast.
  • Enforce the rule. It won’t help if you don’t stick with it.

Your child shouldn’t just rely on you to keep him on schedule. Have him set an alarm clock to get himself up in the morning. To keep aware of time, you may want to get him a watch.

Organize Work Spaces

Clear the clutter off your teen's workspace so there's room to organize homework and space to study. It's hard for kids to get anything done when their desk is covered in a messy pile of papers.

Have organizers and storage bins handy to keep papers, pencils, and other desk accessories in their proper places. Once you show your child how to organize things, tell him you expect him to keep it organized. Schedule time to put things away. Not just in the work space, but in his room as well.

You will have good days and bad days. Your child's time management skills won’t improve overnight. But if you stick with these steps and stay consistent, your tween or teen will get better at staying on task.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 10, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Women's and Children's Health Network: "ADD and ADHD -- how to manage them."

Silver, L. The Misunderstood Child, Fourth Edition, Random House Digital, 2006.

Young, S. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for ADHD in Adolescents and Adults, John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

National Institute of Mental Health: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)."

Selikowitz, M. ADHD, Oxford University Press, 2009.

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