Staying on task and following through can be very difficult for children, teens, (and adults!) with ADHD. At our practice in Houston, TX we see a lot of parents who are frustrated or confused because it seems their children are very smart and capable, but they are unable to complete tasks and get their homework assignments done.
You may wonder how to teach your child organizational skills or how to keep them on track at school and at home. Well, here are some tips on how you as a parent can prepare your child to get things accomplished!!!
Set up a distraction free work space
A distraction free space to complete homework and class assignments is crucial for those with ADHD. Find a place in your home for your child or teen to do their school work that is quiet and somewhat removed from other family members. However, make sure this distraction free work space is near enough to you that you can easily check in periodically to see how they are doing.
Remove technology such as phones, tablets, television, and video games from the area. It can be helpful to place a basket or bin where your child or teen can drop these items while they are working. Make sure it’s not TOO close so they do not feel inclined to reach over and check their phone or play a quick game! Get all toys out of the area too. Even removing pictures or artwork from the walls can be helpful. Imagine you are a minimalist when you are helping design your child’s work space – the less stuff the better!!!
Set aside homework time every night
The kids are home from school and now starts the everyday battle of getting your children to sit down and do their homework. Establishing a scheduled after-school routine can be very beneficial for children and teens with ADHD and make getting homework done a little less painful. With an established routine your children will know what to expect and this will help them better stay on task.
Doing homework soon after they get home from school and eat a snack works well for a lot of families because then the child will still be in “school mode” and can therefore get on task faster. Other children may need 30 minutes or a hour to relax and unwind from the stresses of school before diving into their homework. Talk to your child about what might work best for them and stick to that plan! Hold them accountable when they do not stick to the plan or discuss the need to make adjustments. Overtime the pattern will become a habit and getting your child to sit down and do their work will no longer be such a battle!!
Organize your child
Knowing what you need to stay organized comes naturally to some people, but people with ADHD often struggle to know how to keep their lives organized. They are often aware that what they are doing is not working, but are unsure what to do differently (and get distracted while trying to find solutions!). Teaching your child basic organizational skills and techniques will be key to their success.
I could write endlessly about all the ways to help organize your child or teen with ADHD, but here are top three things you can do:
1. Get a planner/agenda
2. Color code
3. Designate spaces
1. Get a planner or agenda:
Having a planner or agenda is a MUST. Most elementary and middle schools will provide planners and therefore will be teaching your children the basics on how to use it in class. You can work with them at home on how to use the planner as a reminder and to check items off as they are completed. However, most high schools do not provide planners so for older children you will need buy one. As they get older they will have numerous assignments and due dates to keep track of so it is especially important to have a planner or agenda in high school!
The planner will be a place where your child can write their homework assignments, due dates for future assignments, and test and quiz dates. Some children find using an online planner or calendar app is beneficial. However, do not utilize this if your children are not allowed to access their phone during school.
Remind your child to use their planner and talk to their teacher to see if they will remind your child in class to write down their homework assignments. Getting colored pens for the planner (I personally like felt tip pens) can make this “chore” seem more fun and can be a great way to color code for each class.
2. Color coding:
This concept is you and your child’s new best friend. As your child gets older they will start having different class subjects/periods in the day which can get very very confusing. Color coding each class so that notebooks, folders, and book covers match for a specific subject can be a great way for your child to know what they need to grab with just a quick glance.
In the folder for each class organize the two pockets. I recommend making the pocket on the left be for homework that needs to be done, and the pocket on the right be for homework that has already been completed. This way your child can stay organized and know (and easily find!) exactly what needs to be completed.
3. Designated areas:
Creating landing spaces for your child to put their belongings can be extremely helpful. It can reduce time spent searching for misplaced items and keep things from getting lost all together. Designate a space in the house for your child to put their backpack every day when they get home from school. Have a hook or bowl by the front door for your teenager to put the keys to the car. Set up a dish or tray in their room to put their purse, wallet, or watch. If it gets lost or misplaced often – find that object a designated landing zone and let it live there when it is not in use!
Clean out their backpack every day
Cleaning out your child’s backpack along with them every day can seem tedious, but is very beneficial for you and your child. It is important to note that this is not saying that you should go through their backpack without them there. Doing it with them allows them to learn from the experience and does not damage their sense of trust (and privacy). Have your child pull things out themselves – you are there to help monitor, talk to them about what they are pulling out, or throw trash out.
Looking though everything also means that you can help them file loose papers that have been thrown into the backpack. This will help your child learn and practice putting things in their proper place. Cleaning out the backpack also allows you to see forms and important parent notifications that you might otherwise miss. When you practice this with your younger children as they get older you will no longer need to go through their backpack with them. They will have learned the skills they need to keep their items organized and clean!
Having timers is a great way to keep your child or teen on task and to help them understand how much time they have left to do something. People with ADHD don’t have a great handle on the passage of time so auditory or visual reminders are key to getting tasks done on time. I like the brand Time Timers which show the passage of time visually with a diminishing red circle. Setting timers on phones can also be helpful for scheduling breaks from doing work. For example, you could set the timer so that every 30 minutes your child can take a stretch break while they are doing their homework. Setting alarms can also be good for preparing your child for transition. For example, you could set an alarm that goes off 10 minutes before TV time is over or before it is time to leave for school.
Skills are built over time so the work and effort you put in now will continue to pay off as the years go by and your child grows up. Being a parent of a child or teen with ADHD can sometimes be very overwhelming, but we hope that these tips for helping your child stay on task will make everything that much easier!
For these and more tips about how to help your child with ADHD check out our guest blog here.
Counseling for ADHD in Houston, TX
If your child is struggling to manage their ADHD symptoms, they may benefit from our ADHD counseling services . As Houston area family & child counseling clinic, Brittani Persha Counseling has child behavior specialists and works to provide parents & child caregivers support throughout the therapy process. Whether you are looking for play therapy for a pre schooler or mental health therapy for an elementary child with anxiety, we are here to help. Brittani Persha Counseling also offers counseling services for teenagers and marriage counseling. Call today to talk about how our professional trauma counselors can help your entire family!