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Managing Screen Time for Kids with ADHD

family parenting

Confession: managing screen time has long been a huge source of stress and anxiety for me as a mom.

My three kids are all neurodivergent and have very different personalities.

One of the essential strategies that I've employed in learning to manage my home and family as a mom with ADHD is putting things on the back burner. It's just impossible to expect myself and my kids to change every area of their life at once. We all end up cranky and overwhelmed and don't end up really creating change.

So, I've given myself and my kids a little pass on screen time for the last few years. My oldest (7th grade boy) in particular is very regulated by screens and video games are his primary interest, creative outlet and tool for social engagement. So, for the last few years, we've allowed more screen time that we'd like while we've focused our parenting energy on other areas. (Side note, if you are curious about what I mean, I highly encourage you to educate yourself on PDA. Casey Ehrlich is amazing and a wonderful resource.

My other two kids (currently 9 and 5) have a much lower tolerance for screens and managing screen time for all three has been a lot harder over the last few months.

We're finally at a place where we can tackle screen time head on and have created a system that works for our family that we're actually excited about.

I've tried so many screen time plans over the years but the more that I've learned about ADHD, about autism, and about myself, I've come to understand why so many of the solutions in the past just didn't work for my family.

If your kids are neurodivergent or uniquely wired, there are a few important things to take in to consideration. Understanding these needs of my kids has been key to finding a system that works for our family.

My Kids Need Autonomy

My kids need autonomy (just like I do too!). They really struggle with vague rules and get really stressed out when there are changes or surprises to their screen time settings. They need to know when they will get screen time and for that to stay consistent.

My Kids Need Me to Respect Their Interests

This one can be really hard for me. I do not get the appeal of minecraft at all. My brain finds it incredibly boring but kids just love it. Judging or shaming them for wanting to play video games is counterproductive and makes them feel like crap. It's been much more helpful to have a posture of understanding what is important to them and letting them know that their needs and desires are on my radar.

My Kids Need Help Understanding Time

One of my children in particular really struggles with the concept of time. He has no idea how much time he's playing video games and "two hours" feels a lot like "2 minutes" to him. He needs help from me understanding time through visuals and to understand why we have time limits. He really needs clear visuals, clear rules and lots of time to adjust to any changes.

My Kids Need Praise + Rewards

My kids struggle with emotional regulation and getting off screens can be hard for them. They need for me to give them compassion and understanding and to praise them for their good behavior. They need a window of time to adjust and zero tolerance for big emotions is a recipe for disaster. They need me to focus on seeing the good and to give them warnings.

My Kids Need Accomodations

My three kids are all very different. They need different levels of accomodations. Just like I can't compare them to other children, I also can't compare them to each other. Yes, it takes more work on my behalf but I have learned that hard and fast limits for everyone in the family don't work for our family.

My Kids Need Non-screen Options

My two younger kids in particular need play options readily available for them. We have an art table out at all times. That's definitely there go to outlet and having that stocked with art supplies helps them so much. They also all love our aerial yoga swing and I keep a ton of balls, scooters and nerf guns out in the play area. If my kids are off screens, they will make a mess and be very loud.  The more I can embrace and empower that kind of creative play, the easier it is for them to skip on screens.

My Kids Need Modeling

My personal technology use is without a doubt that most effective thing in helping them. I've been on a journey to unplug intentionally over the last few years. I regularly read actual books, do crafts or puzzles, and have my own personal downtime hours. My phone charges outside of my bedroom and I usually do that between 7 and 8. I am still active on social media for my work but I try and do my posts while the kids are in school so that they aren't seeing me scrolling social media on a regular basis. It's much easier to explain the WHY of screen time limits when I'm also implementing those same philosophies in my own life.

I recently hosted a Master Class in to all things screen time for the Master the Mundane Community. I shared not only the strategies but several useful tools to help create a value based screen time family that's uniquely personalized to the needs of each family. It's loaded in to the master class library and is ready to watch inside the Master the Mundane Community.

If you dig deeper, I also highly recommend the book, The Screentime Solution by Emily Cherkin.



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