Smoothing the Choppy Seas of Homework with ADHD
By Liz Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC – AD/HD Coach
By Liz Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC – AD/HD Coach
We’re sailing rapidly ahead into the school season! You’ve likely already purchased or gathered supplies, arranged schedules and carpools … and now, you’re sailing right into to the challenge of daily homework – a challenge for kids and parents alike.
AD/HD can make for choppy seas when homework time rolls around, no question about it. Frustration, distraction, fatigue, procrastination, you name it! So, grab the tiller!! Here are nine strategies for steering your family toward smooth sailing in the new school year!
1. Decide with your child on a set time for homework.
Is right after school best? If after-school is your choice, your child will need exercise and a snack first. Does after dinner seem to be best, or is fatigue an issue? When is it quiet at home? When are you available to help if needed? How will you integrate your child’s sports and other after-school activities with homework demands? Whatever you decide, try to stick to a routine.
2. Problem-solve with your child to decide on the best setting for homework.
Does your child do best near you? Does she need to be alone in a quiet place?
Or does your child work better moving from place to place? Should the chair be soft, firm, or moveable, like a rocker or yoga ball? Or, does your child prefer to stand?
3. Organize school supplies near your child’s workplace.
Buying extra supplies and keeping them at the ready in a drawer or small box can reduce the time spent searching before starting homework. Consider having your child sharpen pencils AFTER homework so they are ready for the next day.
4. Prepare for homework with some exercise, outdoor time, and a healthy snack.
Letting your child burn off steam from a long school day can help recharge the batteries for homework. A healthy snack will boost energy for attention to the task ahead. Studies show that cognitive fatigue sets in rapidly when blood sugar levels are low.
5. Use a timer or a watch with an alarm to assist focus.
Break your child’s homework into short increments – as little as 15 minutes, for a very young or very restless child. Then let your child have a “stay-break” – stay in place and drink some water or stretch while taking a break so that the break doesn’t last too long. Ask your child to predict how long an assignment will take and then try to match or beat the estimate. If you keep track of accuracy, your child will improve at estimating time requirements. A visual timer, such as the Time Timer, [HOT LINK PLEASE!!!! can also help your child “see” time passing.
6. Plan regular movement breaks.
Periodic movement breaks when homework lasts more than 30 to 60 minutes can re-energize and assist with focus. Jumping jacks, push-ups, running outside the house, or your child’s favorite can all work. Use a timer to keep the break to 5 or 10 minutes.
7. Plan a daily backpack check.
Each evening, review your child’s work for completion, sign any notes, and have your child pack up for the next morning. Designate a spot for the backpack – near the door is good – and make sure it is put there every night. Each week, sort through the backpack to organize and clean out as needed.
8. Advocate for your child if necessary.
If your child is trying hard and homework seems to stretch out to unreasonable lengths, it’s important to speak to your child’s teacher about reducing homework. No child should have to stay up past bedtime completing work, or work more than two hours on a week-night in elementary or middle school.
9. Make time to celebrate a job well done!
Focus on your child’s specific successes each day, rather than failures, in order to build self-esteem and encourage further progress in making homework a positive experience. And, give yourself a pat on the back for your good parenting work, too!
Best wishes for smooth sailing with homework in the coming school year!
Need more help around homework issues, or with other aspects of organizing life at home with AD/HD? Contact one of our AD/HD coaches for personalized strategies and support.