Routines and Visual Schedules for Managing DID as a Parent

January 24, 2024 Kristian McElroy

Routines and visual schedules can help a parent with dissociative identity disorder (DID). Growing up, my life was marked by unpredictability. I found myself perpetually in a hypervigilant fight-or-flight crisis mode. When I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, I thought I would spend the rest of my life in this mode. When I found out I was going to be a parent, the idea of parenting the way I functioned for most of my life terrified me. Little did I know I would soon discover the power of routine and visual schedules as a parent with DID. 

Using a Routine Fosters Safety for DID Parents and Family Systems

As a parent with DID, I have an internal and external family system. My external family system consists of my daughter and my partner. My internal family system is made up of my alters. Since getting married and becoming a parent, my internal family system has gone through some adjustments that caused my alters and I to have to establish safety and communication with each other.

Parenting, inherently stressful for many, presented unique challenges for me. Stress acted as a potential trigger, causing me to become ungrounded, lose track of time, and experience flooding within my internal family system. As the voices within grew louder, regulating my external and internal worlds became increasingly challenging. Amidst this struggle, my therapist and I embarked on a journey to enhance communication with my internal parts and establish a routine as a foundational pillar for parenting with DID. The rationale was simple but profound: routines benefit children as they create predictability, ultimately reducing stress. 

We deliberated on what these routines would entail and crafted visual schedules to help with parenting with DID. These visual schedules became anchors, grounding me in the present moment. They not only provided a roadmap for the day but also facilitated communication with both my daughter and my alters, conveying what to expect next. Over time, this anchoring effect fostered a profound sense of safety, introducing predictability into the day's environments for both my internal and external family systems. 

Routines as a Grounding Tool to Aid Parenting with DID

A benefit to exploring various daily routines and scheduling tools when parenting with DID is the possibility of finding a tool that works for you and your system. My system found solace in a calendar app and a visual schedule. The calendar app allowed me to seamlessly integrate appointments, synchronize work tasks, and add essential elements to my day. Utilizing the visual schedule, I could further organize tasks into folders, providing a detailed breakdown that proved particularly helpful as alters could engage with the visual schedule in ways that were helpful for them as well. I have alters of various ages and abilities. The calendar app and visual schedule allow me and my alters to communicate about the happenings of the day through words and pictures. Communicating in this way helps my internal family system feel safe and function as a whole team.

Over the years, I've found living with DID disorienting. However, in my search for tools, I've learned routines and schedules can serve as helpful grounding tools when parenting with DID, aiding in the reorientation to the present moment, especially when time has been lost. This made me ponder the question: can routines and schedules be helpful for others living with dissociative identity disorder as well?

APA Reference
McElroy, K. (2024, January 24). Routines and Visual Schedules for Managing DID as a Parent, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Kristian McElroy

Kris McElroy, diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) at 28, shares a transformative journey from a decade-long mental health struggle to fostering understanding and navigating life with DID, embracing parenthood, coexisting with alters, pursuing professional endeavors, and fostering interpersonal relationships, inviting others to share on the journey of dissociative living. Find Kris on Instagram, X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and his site.

March, 24 2024 at 3:40 pm

I am.learning to better understand my partner who.has been diagnosed with D.I.D and I appreciate your blogs. Thank you for helping me to better understand and be loving.

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