Managing ADHD Symptoms at Home
For many children and teenagers with ADHD, getting work done at home is a struggle. They get frustrated, parents get frustrated, fighting ensues, and the result is not only incomplete work, but also a child who feels badly about himself and their academic potential. Over time, this can lead to disengagement from schoolwork, strain on the parent-child relationship, and poor self-esteem. Read on for some tips to help children and teens with ADHD feel successful and get more done at home.
Create a Designated Workspace
A neurotypical brain is capable of filtering out multiple inputs. For example, when you’re at a loud cocktail party, everyone in the room is talking, but your brain isn’t processing 30 conversations at once. It’s able to tune out background noise and just concentrate on the one conversation you’re participating in. The ADHD brain really struggles to tune out all that other noise, so any distractions in the workplace make it exceptionally hard to focus.
To help give the ADHD brain a hand, create a specific workplace for your child that is as distraction free as possible. Ideally, this would be a space that is only used for working, so their brain learns to associate it with quiet concentration, and that is separate from any main living areas where other family members might be moving around or making noise. If your child is specifically sensitive to noise, she may also benefit from noise canceling headphones and listening to white noise (some children with ADHD do well with clips that include binaural waves – for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=qy9eFVKxDlc&app=desktop).
One feature of ADHD is difficulty with planning, organizing, and initiating tasks. To make homework less overwhelming and help your child develop their planning skills, help them to break down assignments into clearly defined chunks, or steps. For example, instead of “Write book report,” help them to come up with a more specific list of what has to be accomplished, such as, “1. Read book. 2. Come up with a thesis statement. 3. Write outline…” etc.
Have them focus on completing one chunk at a time, and monitor their progress as they work. It helps to give them feedback (with as much positive feedback as possible!) on their working style as they go.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
Teenagers and young adults often benefit from a time management method called the Pomodoro Technique, which structures work time around frequent short breaks. The Pomodoro Technique works as follows:
- Select the task to work on
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- After the 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break
- After four “pomodoros” (or 25-minute chunks), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
There are several apps that help keep track of pomodoros, such as “PomoDone”, “Focus Keeper”, or “Marinara Timer.”
For younger children, or teenagers with very severe ADHD, this technique should be adjusted down to shorter intervals. Many young kids with ADHD can’t focus for more than 5-10 minutes. Find the amount of time that works – long enough for them to make progress but not so long that they get overly antsy, frustrated, or tired – and use frequent breaks to help them stay regulated.
Many children and teens with ADHD move around like Energizer Bunnies. While this may seem distracting, it’s actually their bodies’ way of compensating for understimulation in the brain. So to help your child focus, find ways to integrate movement into their work. This could mean having them stand up while doing work, or even doing work while walking or wiggling around, if the assignment allows. For work that has to be completed in one set place, allowing them to use a fidget toy can make a big difference in their ability to focus.
Outside of actual work time, it helps to take frequent “brain breaks” where movement is encouraged. Have you ever noticed that you tend to be more clear-headed after exercising or going for a walk? This is even more the case for those with ADHD. Whether it’s taking a 5-minute dance break, doing some jumping jacks or burpees, or taking a walk around the block, getting the body moving will help to stimulate their brains and give them an extra jolt of “focus” for the next round of working.
Most importantly, do your best to have patience with the process. Because ADHD has so many different presentations, some strategies will work better for your child than others. Do a little trial and error, and check in with them often about what they feel helps them the most. Whenever you find something that works, take the opportunity to celebrate! Your child is working hard to overcome their struggles, and so are you. Keep up the great work!
Encourage your child
When things go right, let them know! Don’t be afraid to tell them how well they’re doing. While you’re at it, let us know if this post helped you!