Self-Care For Children and Teens With ADHD (Parent Guide and FREE PLANNER)

Written by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Dr Lucy Russell Clinical Psychologist Founder of They Are The Future
Author: Dr Lucy Russell, Clinical Psychologist

Living with ADHD can be challenging, but incorporating self-care into your child’s daily routine can make a significant difference in managing their symptoms.

In this article I’ll offer expert advice as a clinical psychologist with more than twenty years’ experience working with children and teens with ADHD, including easy tips to follow.

I’ve also prepared a set of ADHD self-care planners to help your child manage their symptoms of ADHD and thrive in their wellbeing.

Self-care is crucial because it helps us maintain a healthy balance in your life and maintains our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

When we prioritise self-care, we’re actively taking the necessary steps to ensure that ADHD symptoms don’t overwhelm us.

a tween girl at a kitchen table eating lunch

Self-Care in ADHD

Some essential self-care practices for people with ADHD include getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and doing stress-reduction activities (whatever you enjoy and makes you feel relaxed).

It’s important to remember that everyone’s self-care routine will look different, as we all have unique needs and preferences.

Help your child experiment with techniques and strategies until you find the ones that work best for you.

Be Realistic with your Child’s ADHD Self-Care Routine

As your child develops an ADHD self-care routine, make sure their expectations (and yours) are realistic. A highly structured routine is unlikely to be sustainable.

Make sure your child gives themself permission to make adjustments along the way, and support them to do this.

Self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

What’s most crucial is that your child is consistent with their efforts and gets the clear and consistent message that nurturing their wellbeing is vital.

Equipped with the right self-care practices, your child can not only manage their ADHD symptoms but also thrive in all aspects of their life.

Download Your Free ADHD Self-Care Planner HERE

How to Use The ADHD Self-Care Planner

Incorporating a day planner into your child’s daily life can be a transformative part of the behavioral management of ADHD.

The planners above, designed with ADHD self-help strategies in mind, are a visual and approachable way to develop consistent self-care.

By using their ADHD planner on a daily basis, your child can develop healthy self-care practices, integral to their overall treatment plan.

Introduce the planner for the first time in a visible spot, making it a central part of your child’s routine.

The planner is not overly structured, allowing for flexibility while helping your child keep track of time and tasks. Each planner is essentially a colourful a to-do list, encouraging a healthy relationship with time and responsibilities.

Consistency is key. It may take several weeks for using the planner to become a habit, but this persistence is often rewarded with significant improvements in the daily management of ADHD.

ten year old boy pointing to a wall planner

The Meaning of Self-Care in ADHD

When it comes to self-care for children and teens with ADHD, it’s essential to create a balance that meets their physical and emotional needs.

Understanding what self-care means for your child is the first step in developing a routine that supports their wellbeing.

In the context of ADHD, self-care is about nurturing themselves in ways that alleviate stress and help manage symptoms. 

Physical Wellbeing Needs in ADHD

Physical needs such as sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet play a significant role in self-care. By meeting these needs, your child can experience improved focus and reduced hyperactivity.

Mental Wellbeing Needs in ADHD

Prioritising your child’s mental wellbeing is also crucial, of course.

Ensuring that your child feels safe and secure in their environment, growing positive relationships, and practising self-esteem, self-respect, and self-efficacy are vital aspects of self-care for ADHD individuals.

Engaging in activities that promote relaxation, like deep breathing exercises or mindfulness, can help manage stress levels and maintain your child’s emotional balance.

Holistic Self-Care in ADHD

Consider the following strategies for self-care, tailored to the unique challenges of ADHD:

  • Establish routines: Regular schedules for sleeping, eating, and exercise help maintain consistency and promote healthy habits.
  • Create a supportive environment: Help your child surround themself with people who understand their challenges and can provide encouragement and guidance.
  • Seek professional help: ADHD coaching, mentoring or therapy can teach your child strategies to cope with their symptoms and enhance self-compassion.
  • Set achievable goals: Help them break tasks into manageable steps that allow them to experience success and build confidence.
  • Embrace self-compassion: Help your child practice positive self-talk and forgive yourself for any perceived shortcomings related to ADHD.

Ultimately, self-care for children and teens with ADHD requires a holistic approach that addresses both their physical and emotional needs.

By integrating self-care strategies into their daily life, they can reduce stress and enhance their overall wellbeing.

Remember that self-care is an ongoing process. Encourage them to be gentle with themself as they navigate the complexities of living with ADHD.

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Why is Self-Care a Challenge for Young People With ADHD?

Caring for yourself might seem like a straightforward process, but when experiencing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it often becomes a more challenging task.

One of the primary reasons self-care is a challenge for young people living with ADHD is the presence of executive functioning difficulties, like time management and organisation issues.

These difficulties make it harder to maintain a healthy routine and engage in self-care activities consistently.

For instance, metacognition, or self-awareness, often develops later in people with ADHD, making it more difficult to identify and respond to personal needs.

Another factor is the tendency to have racing thoughts. Racing thoughts can lead to restlessness and insomnia, as your overactive mind keeps you from resting. A lack of sleep, in turn, can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, making self-care even more challenging.

Additionally, the impulsivity that often accompanies ADHD creates a cycle where a young person might initiate a self-care routine but struggle to maintain it.

restless tween boy struggling to sleep

Fast Pace, High Stimulation Equals Low Self Care?

While there are undoubtedly problematic aspects of ADHD that can impede self-care, some positive aspects can also contribute.

Many young people with ADHD thrive in fast-paced, high-stimulation environments.

This ability to excel under pressure can create a sense of invincibility, leading us to underestimate the need for self-care and neglect the activities that keep both our body and mind healthy.

Essential Aspects of Self-Care For Children and Teens With ADHD

Physical Self-Care

Physical self-care includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, and proper sleep.

Help your child engage in activities that they enjoy and that help them feel energised.

Consuming foods rich in protein can also help stabilise blood glucose and balance brain chemicals.

Hygiene & ADHD

Maintaining personal hygiene is an important aspect of self-care for young people with ADHD. It can often take a back seat if your child has other priorities or gets easily distracted.

Help your child establish a routine for basics like showering, brushing their teeth, and grooming. You may find that your child may needs more support and patience with this than other kids their age.

Cleanliness will help your child feel refreshed and contribute positively to your self-esteem.

Girl washing her face in a bathroom mirror with a towel

The ADHD Child’s Bedroom Environment

Help create a sleep-conducive environment in your child’s bedroom by supporting them to keep it relatively clutter-free, quiet, and comfortable. This will promote better sleep quality, which is crucial for managing ADHD symptoms effectively.

Mental Self-Care

Practising self-compassion will help your child cope with the emotional challenges posed by ADHD.

Focus on supporting them to nurture positive thoughts and gently challenge any negative self-talk.

Incorporate relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, or mindfulness into their daily routine.

Nurturing Positive Relationships in ADHD

Developing and maintaining a support system of positive relationships with friends, family, and peers can significantly impact our mental and emotional well-being.

Your child may find it helpful to attend support groups or join online communities to connect with others who understand the challenges and benefits of ADHD.

It’s vital that teachers and family members understand why your child may struggle more than others in certain areas of life such as self-care and organisation.

Your role is important here. Aim to maintain a positive relationship with your child’s support system, whilst ensuring they bolster your child’s needs and provide emotional and physical support.

Hobbies and Activities

Help your child engage in a range of hobbies or activities that they are passionate about and that bring them joy. They may hyperfocus on one or more of these, and that’s okay as long as it does not become all-consuming.

These activities can relieve stress, boost children’s self-esteem, and contribute to a balanced lifestyle.

a teen girl building a complex lego structure

Time Management and ADHD

Implementing effective time management strategies can help you stay organised and manage your daily tasks.

Use the ADHD daily planner above, create colourful to-do lists, and help them set realistic short-term and long-term goals.

Help your child prioritise tasks and break them down into smaller, manageable steps.

ADHD and Daily Routines

Establishing consistent daily routines can help to improve ADHD symptoms, and that’s where the ADHD self-care planner comes in.

Routines for sleep, meal times, and other self-care practices will provide a sense of structure and predictability, easing daily decision-making and enhancing your child’s overall functioning.


What Support Does Your ADHD Child Need From You?

For parents of children with ADHD, the most important thing is understand and addressing their unique needs. I know it’s hard not to compare with other children who seem to be organised and have it all figured out. Your child may just need a little extra “scaffolding” with this.

Provide structure, set clear expectations, and offer positive reinforcement when things go well.

Work together to implement practical solutions, such as establishing routines and schedules, creating an organised living environment, and providing emotional support.

Case Study: ADHD and Self-Care (Ed, Age 16)

Ed is a 16-year-old who has been diagnosed with ADHD.

Despite facing challenges with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, he discovers that working on self-care can help manage his symptoms.

Knitting Club as an ADHD Self-Care Activity

In his search for self-care activities, Ed decides to join a knitting club at school.

He finds several benefits that improve his ADHD symptoms, such as:

  • Improved focus: Knitting requires Ed to pay attention to intricate patterns and stitch counts. This helps him train his focus and concentration skills.
  • Reduced hyperactivity: The repetitive motion of knitting has a calming effect on Ed. This helps him channel his excess energy in a productive manner.
  • Increased self-esteem: As Ed becomes more skilled in knitting, he begins to take pride in his finished projects. This boosts his self-confidence and reinforces the value of perseverance.

Establishing a Routine

To further support his self-care journey, with the help of his parents Ed establishes a daily routine that includes:

  • Regular sleeping hours: Maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time with prompts from his parents helps Ed regulate his circadian rhythm, improving sleep quality.
  • Healthy eating habits: Ed plans balanced meals with his parents’ support, ensuring his body receives essential nutrients that support cognitive function and overall health.
  • Exercise: Incorporating physical activity into his daily routine helps Ed release energy, increase focus, and manage stress.

Mindfulness Practices

Finally, Ed explores mindfulness practices to help him better manage his ADHD symptoms:

  • Breathing exercises: Ed learns to use slow, deep breathing techniques to calm his mind and improve concentration.
  • Meditation: Integrating short meditation sessions into his routine helps Ed develop greater self-awareness and emotional regulation.

A boy sat cross legged with his eyes closed on a seat in his living room, meditating.

Managing Self-Care With ADHD at Different Life Stages

Puberty: ADHD Self-Care

During puberty, ADHD symptoms may become more pronounced due to hormonal changes and increased academic and social pressure.

To cope with these challenges, it’s essential to give your child extra support to establish a daily routine. Help them prioritise sleep, and practice healthy communication with their peers and family.

Limiting social media exposure can reduce distractions and aid in maintaining focus on your daily tasks.

ADHD and Self-Care: High School Age

High school can be particularly challenging for young people with ADHD. There will almost certainly be heightened academic expectations, complex social interactions and increased independence to manage.

Try helping your child to implement specific strategies to manage their symptoms:

  1. Time management: Use tools like planners, calendars, and to-do lists to better organise your day and break down tasks into manageable steps.
  2. Study techniques: Identify your learning style and adopt strategies such as the Pomodoro Technique to improve productivity during study sessions.
  3. Advocacy: Engage with your school’s counselling services and explore possible accommodations for ADHD, such as extended time during exams or additional support in the classroom.

ADHD Self-Care: The Transition to Adulthood

As your child transitions into adulthood, adapting to new responsibilities and routines can be tricky whilst managing ADHD symptoms.

Here are some tips to navigate this phase of life:

  • Career planning: Help your child select a field of work or further study that aligns with their strengths and interests, as this can help you maintain focus and achieve success in their professional life.
  • Support networks: Help your child embrace their unique perspective and establish a reliable support network consisting of friends, family, and perhaps ADHD support groups.
  • Adult responsibilities: Develop systems with them to manage everyday life responsibilities like budgeting, scheduling appointments, and housekeeping. Utilise visual cues and reminders to help improve memory and task completion.

Young man talking to a small ADHD support group who are sat in a circle.

Staying Engaged and Motivated in ADHD Self-Care

Helping Your Child Find their Own Way

As a parent of a child with ADHD, one of the most important aspects of neurodiverse self-care is helping them find their own way to stay engaged and motivated.

Understand that everyone’s ADHD journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for your child.

Encourage your child to take an active role in understanding their ADHD and discovering what strategies work best for them. By allowing them to experiment and adapt, you’ll provide them with the tools to manage daily life demands more effectively.

Remember, making these self-care practices a top priority will go a long way towards improving your child’s overall well-being.

Adapting to Your Child’s Changing Needs

Recognise that as your child grows, their needs and coping strategies will change.

Staying on top of their wellness journey may require re-evaluating your child’s self-care practices and adapting them to suit their development.

Regularly reassess your child’s self-care routine and make any necessary adjustments.

Here are some tips for adapting self-care practices:

  • Remain open to change – be willing to modify, discard, or accept new strategies as needed
  • Communicate with your child about their experiences and feelings, and use their input when making decisions about their self-care
  • Stay informed about the latest ADHD research and resources, as new techniques and treatments may become available

By staying flexible and responsive to your child’s changing needs, you’ll help them remain engaged and motivated throughout their life.

Summary: Self-Care For Children and Teens With ADHD

As we wrap up this article, I want to remind you that self-care for our children with ADHD is all about finding what works best for them, in a loving and understanding way.

It’s not about a perfect routine, but about being flexible and patient as we guide them.

Every child is unique, and so is their journey with ADHD.

By supporting them in simple, practical self-care steps, we’re empowering them to embrace their individuality and to thrive.

Let’s keep nurturing our children’s wellbeing with kindness and empathy, one day at a time. Every small effort counts in making a big difference in their lives.

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The Incredible Benefits of Yoga for Children and Teens

Getting Help for Teenage Low Self Esteem

Autistic Children and Hoarding: How to Help Your Child

ADHD Sleep Routine: A Better Bedtime For Your Child

Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years.

In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children. Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.

Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.

UK parents, looking for expert parenting advice?

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