10 Tips for Managing Chores in the ADHD Household

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • Chores! Everyone hates them. They are typically boring, repetitive and never go away. But when ADHD is part of the marital mix, it can be a real challenge to get household chores done without one or the other feeling exasperated, angry or shamed. Often, the non-ADHD partner feels resentment over doing more than his/her share or having to constantly remind the other to do what needs to be done.


    The ADHD partner might feel angry at always being told what to do and may feel unappreciated for the efforts being made, which sometimes feels like they aren't "good enough" no matter how hard he/she tries.

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    As in any relationship, one can expect disagreements, anger and tensions to arise. In an ADHD relationship, where symptoms can create tremendous difficulties, it's important to keep the communication channels open at all times.

    No one likes to be told in a negative, degrading way that they, again, forgot to take out the garbage, or put away dishes. Since many with ADHD often have challenges with self-reflecting- seeing how their behaviors might affect others- it's important to learn appropriate communicating skills with your partner.


    "I" messages are often a positive way to express one's upset, so that the other person does not get into a defensive mode, which simply precludes the couple from resolving conflicts effectively. An example of an "I" message might be:


    "Clutter in the kitchen makes me feel anxious. When dishes pile up in the sink, it makes me feel like you don't understand how that affects me."


    This type of dialogue can continue with both partners discussing ways to solve the problem, VS putting one on the defensive and causing a blowup between the two, as in this scenario: "I am sick and tired of you not doing your share around here. Just look at those dishes piled in the sink! What am I, your maid?"


    I often tell couples to discuss problems well before they escalate into pre-screaming mode. Knowing about the symptoms of ADHD is imperative in order for a couple to understand its impact on the relationship and family. For example, boredom is tough for most people. But for the one with ADHD, it can be excruciating. For the non ADHD partner, there is almost always the question of whether they are allowing co-dependency by often "baling the other out." This creates frustration and annoyance, at best. Understanding how ADHD impacts relationships will help de-fuse stressful situations that are bound to arise.


    Consider having regular Pow-Wows to assess the problems before they become a source of constant fighting. For example, if your ADHD spouse consistently forgets to do the weekly banking, don't wait 6 months later when you're ready to explode at him/her. Catch yourself when you begin to see and feel the annoyance before it turns into fury. Then, sit down and state the facts without pointing fingers:


    "I notice that it's been hard to get the banking done on time. Maybe it's because you hate doing it, or it gets put on the back-burner. Whatever the case, how can we work this out together?"


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    By stating the problem and working out a solution as a couple, you'll defuse the situation before it turns into WW lll. Sadly, many couples find it hard to discuss problems before it gets to that point, which is why I advocate, "taking your emotional temperature on a regular basis." If you begin to have a nagging feeling in your stomach, catch it before it erupts into hurtful words and discuss it while you're still rational.


    Here are my top 10 tips for managing chores in your home when one (or both!) partner has ADHD:


    1. Call upon each person's strengths. Choose the right chore! If one likes being outdoors doing physical things, assign lawn work to that person. If the other loves listening to music, give that person light housework where he/she can wear headphones while working.
    2. If boredom is a problem, rotate jobs so that there's less chance of procrastinating or not finishing.
    3. Folks with ADHD typically do better when there are visual cues. Place a white board in a highly visible place, listing chores, who's assigned to do them, and when they should be done. Leave room for a check mark, so there's a feeling of accomplishment when the chore is completed.
    4. Reward yourselves. Make a weekly dinner or movie date if you've finished all the chores on your chart.
    5. Delegate! If you can afford to hire people to help you out, do it!
    6. Change your expectations. No one says there's a law that beds must be made daily.
    7. Get the kids involved and make it a family affair. Give each family member a room or task to be in charge of. To prevent boredom, rotate chores.
    8. Communicate. If you feel unappreciated, angry or misunderstood, discuss your concerns before the resentment builds to unhealthy levels.
    9. Be playful. Write down the chores, toss them in a bowl and pick your chore for the day or week. Or draw straws. Think of creative ways to get things done.
    10. Find a way to use the time to be together. For instance, while one is paying bills, the other can be filing.

    And of course, make sure that those with ADHD are getting the appropriate treatment for it!

Published On: March 12, 2008