Household chores are an essential part of learning responsibility and contributing to the family unit.
However, getting children and teens, especially those with ADHD, to complete these tasks can be challenging. The key lies in making chores engaging and manageable, while understanding the unique difficulties faced by children with ADHD. I like to treat household chores like any other learning activity. If your child needs accommodations and supports at school then we want to use similar accommodations and adaptations at home. In this blog post, we will explore effective strategies to motivate children and teens, making household chores a fun and rewarding experience. Then I have an extra bonus extension to explore incorporating household chores into a summer vacation routine.
Strategies for Success
Make it a Game:
Transform mundane chores into exciting games. Create a points system, set time challenges, or turn cleaning tasks into a friendly competition. Adding an element of fun and a hint of healthy competition can motivate kids with ADHD to participate eagerly.
Break it Down:
Large tasks can feel overwhelming for children and teens with ADHD. Breaking them into smaller, more manageable steps helps alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with daunting chores. Take time to support and teach each step, providing clear instructions and guidance along the way.
Less is More:
Focusing on learning and mastering one chore or helping “zone” at a time is crucial for children with ADHD. A long list of new tasks can feel overwhelming and daunting. By teaching one task at a time to mastery, children can build confidence and competence gradually.
Use Visual Aids:
Visual cues are powerful tools for children and teens with ADHD. Consider creating visual chore charts or checklists that outline tasks and their completion. Utilize colorful images or stickers to mark progress and completion. Visual aids provide a visual representation of the chores and help children stay organized and motivated. See sample charts below.
Try “first this, then that.”:
Positive reinforcement goes a long way in motivating children and teens with ADHD. But, rewards systems can be a challenge to maintain and aren’t always effective long term. Instead I like to pair non-preferred tasks with a preferred task to follow. We will do this and then that.
Encouraging self-reliance and independence is important for children and teens with ADHD. Allow them to take ownership of their chores, providing guidance and support as needed. Gradually step back and let them tackle tasks on their own, building their confidence and sense of accomplishment.
Children with ADHD often benefit from structure and routines. Establish consistent chore schedules to create predictability and familiarity. Having a clear routine helps children anticipate and prepare for their chores, reducing resistance and promoting a smoother experience.
Flexibility and Accommodation:
Patience and flexibility are essential when engaging children and teens with ADHD in household chores. Be open to adjustments and ensure that the assigned tasks are suitable for their abilities and strengths. Just like in school, providing accommodations and recognizing individual differences can make the chore experience more manageable and successful.
Check out these two visuals that I created for my own daughter and a teen client so far this summer as examples. I use canva to make my easy visuals and then print them off. I also love a centrally located white board, a large calendar that you can write on, or just a simple visual you create by hand together. I like to create visuals that will last at least a week so that it isn’t labor intensive to maintain.
Let’s Talk Summer
Summer is a wonderful time for children and teens to enjoy a break from school, engage in various activities, and spend quality time with family. However, maintaining a sense of structure and responsibility during the summer months can be challenging. In this extended section of the blog post, we will explore how to incorporate the strategies for engaging children and teens in completing household chores into a summer rhythm or routine.
Establish a Summer Routine:
While the freedom of summer is refreshing, having a loose structure can help children and teens with ADHD navigate their days and ensure that household chores are completed consistently. Without school it is normal for families to take on household projects and expect more help from children and teens. Create a flexible daily or weekly schedule that includes designated chore times. Consider factors such as preferred activities, outings, and downtime to balance responsibilities and leisure.
I like to create a daily flow that is predictable and fits most days or if you have many full day events a weekly flow. Some examples of this are:
- outdoor adventure in the morning
- home for lunch
- chores and helping tasks
- indoor quiet time
- outdoor play
- evening walk
- bedtime routine
Collaborative Chore Planning:
Involve children and teens in the planning process to increase their sense of ownership and engagement. Sit down together and discuss the chores that need to be done. Allow them to have a say in which tasks they prefer and how they would like to distribute the responsibilities. When children feel heard and valued, they are more likely to participate actively.
Summer provides an excellent opportunity to introduce chore rotations within the family. Rotate chores on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, allowing each child to experience a variety of tasks. This not only prevents monotony but also encourages learning and growth as they acquire new skills throughout the summer.
Theme-Based Chore Days:
To infuse creativity and excitement into the chore routine, consider incorporating theme-based chore days. Choose a specific theme for each day of the week, such as “Tidy-up Tuesday” or “Freshen-up Friday.” Tailor the tasks to match the theme, and encourage children to embrace the theme and complete their chores accordingly. This approach adds an element of fun and anticipation to the chore routine.
Family Chore Time:
Designate specific times during the week as “family chore time.” This approach fosters a sense of unity and cooperation as everyone works together to complete tasks. Play lively music, set a timer, and turn the chores into a collaborative and enjoyable experience. By working side by side, children and teens with ADHD can learn from family members’ example and feel supported in their responsibilities.
Outdoor Chores and Gardening:
Summer is the perfect time to engage children and teens in outdoor chores and gardening activities. Assign tasks such as watering plants, weeding the garden, or taking care of outdoor spaces. Connecting chores to the natural environment not only makes them more enjoyable but also provides an opportunity to learn about nature and develop a sense of responsibility towards the environment.
This blog post is FULL of strategies. I recommend picking and choosing one or two to try at a time. One important thing to remember is that every child with ADHD will have their own specific preferences. I recommend taking on any new skill or learning area with an attitude of experimentation. Experimenting with strategies and options until you find the combination that suits your family and child the best.