Kids love to know what is coming next. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel like you have a handle on what’s going on? Predictability, consistency, structure, routine are important ingredients for success if your child has ADHD, anxiety, trauma, or behavior problems. If they are anxious, knowing what’s coming next helps reduce the stress and worry over the unknown. If they have ADHD, knowing what’s next keeps them from getting distracted and off task. They can also support kids who struggle with transitions or who fight for control when asked to do something by an authority figure. Having a visual schedule can remove the battle of reminders and refusal to comply. We find that having a visual schedule to follow on their own gives children a sense of autonomy and control. Giving them an outlet to feel this is important for any kid, but especially a child who has experienced trauma.
Don’t over complicate things
My first tip is it doesn’t have to be perfect, I mean, look at this terribly drawn version I drew together at the start of quarantine. It’s ugly, but it worked. Don’t make your life harder than it needs to be. Keep it simple. Huge fan of these dry erase stickies btw.
Evaluate the day
Think about where your child needs some extra support, is it in morning routine? Bedtime? Nap-time? Is it just having an overall idea of what the plan is for the day?
List each step
If you want to get your child involved in the process, have them walk with you through each step as you write down your list together. Omit anything that is a ‘sometimes’, for example, don’t put “put on socks” on the schedule if it is summer and your child doesn’t usually wear socks. Doing so will teach their brain to skip steps or ignore the visual all-together and we don’t want that!
If your child isn’t a strong reader (and even if they are!) visuals are great addition to your list to make it as easy to follow as possible for them. You can use pictures of objects in your house (let your kiddo go around with their iPad taking pictures to get involved) or use free images online.
Post it somewhere accessible
Hang the schedule somewhere central, where your child will be able to easily access it. If they do most of their morning routine in their bedroom, hang it there. Or consider something portable that they can carry with them.
Reference back to it
Then, when your child inevitably asks you “what are we doing today?” or gets off track in the morning, rather than tell them what to do next, encourage them to check their visual schedule to see what is next.
For more great routine related advice, check out our post on How to Get the Kids out the Door without Yelling!