Having a child with ADHD can sometimes be overwhelming, even more so when it comes to accomplishing daily tasks such as homework or chores that aren’t as interesting or engaging as the thousand other things they can think of. Remember above all else, your child has already had a very hard working day – focusing on learning all day is hard work for him!
Have you requested some suggestions from his teacher(s) at school? It’s likely that his teacher(s) have implemented various strategies within the classroom to ensure effective use of time. Believe it or not, if you can implement the same or similar strategies at home, the continuity and connection will help your son transfer the skills he’s learned there to the home environment. His teacher(s) want to see him succeed just as much as you do. They also want to see homework get done because it’s imperative to his learning. If you can schedule a time to meet with the teacher in his classroom, you can see these strategies up close. Even better, if you have the opportunity to go and observe him in the classroom with the system and strategies they have in place, you’ll get a concrete idea of what you can put into practice at home.
Here are some other ideas:
- Take a look at his homework and write a brief checklist breaking it down into smaller chunks so that it doesn’t seem as overwhelming to him.
- Allow him to take short breaks between each “chunk” or perhaps switch to a different subject. He’ll find the change of focus easier for him to handle.
- Set goals for the time you spend together. For example, decide that he’ll finish his 10 math problems before he goes for a break or does a different task.
- Try allowing him to stand while doing his homework or tie a large elastic (you can get these from physiotherapy offices) around the front legs of his chair so that he can move his feet while working.
- Allow him to have a stress ball in the hand not doing the writing. This can help keep him focused on the task at hand because the hand is now occupied.
- If you are sitting with him, try rubbing his back as he does his homework. It’s been my experience that ADHD children find this contact soothing and it can calm them down while working so that they can focus as necessary.
- Structure – make sure that you have a definite schedule in place to help him know how to plan. For example, perhaps you schedule homework to be worked on ½ hour before dinner and then ½ hour after. This gives him time to come home and have a break from school, but then tackle some of it before dinner and then some of it after dinner. Whatever schedule works best for you, post it somewhere you can all see it and really make an effort to stick to that schedule no matter what. Perhaps also schedule other tasks, fun or not, in that schedule – playtime, TV time, Wii, bike riding, etc. Sit down once/month and review the schedule based on what else is going on in terms of extracurricular activities and seasons. Be sure to sit down and do the schedule with your son so that he feels like he’s got some input and his opinion matters.
- Ensure that the work being sent home is at your son’s level. If it’s too hard, this means that you’re having to “teach” him and that’s just too difficult for both of you, not to mention that most kids don’t necessarily appreciate when it’s mom or dad teaching.
- Ask the teacher to write in the agenda/day timer an estimation of approximately how long each task should take. If you have a timer, you can make it a challenge by seeing if your son can get it done (well) in the time allotted. Perhaps a sticker, prize or high-five when he completes it will help as well.
- Use some sort of progress/sticker chart (visual) and reward him regularly with special privileges, stickers, etc.
- Make sure you have a specific place where he does his homework every night.
- See if you can find some neighborhood homework support. I know of some families who have formed a homework club. Three parents take turns on different nights at the designated house and help the children gathered there from the three households with their homework. It means a break for parents every third night, plus children often perform/behave better when it’s not mom or dad working with them.
- Medication – if your child is on medication to help him concentrate during the day, but not using medication at night, it may be difficult for him to focus and do what needs to be done when it comes to homework time. Perhaps speak with your doctor about how to handle this challenge. It may be that medication needs to be changed or altered to help your son cope with homework.
- Inquire if there is a local support group for parents of ADHD. They may have various suggestions in place which can help greatly.
- If possible, look into hiring a tutor to work with your son on a regularly scheduled basis. The tutor support will help not only in terms of reviewing concepts your child didn’t previously grasp (if he’s struggling with grades) and it will allow you to be the parent instead of the teacher, thus encouraging a more positive relationship with your son. A professional will have strategies that you don’t. They’ll be able to offer suggestions for you to use when the tutor’s not around and your son will become accustomed to a particular structure when the tutor is there that can be transferred to the times you’re with him.
Hopefully you’re able to use some of these ideas to support an environment around homework that causes less stress for all of you.