Parents of children with ADHD understand how many accommodations are made in the course of normal times. They are familiar with the heightened challenges families have faced during a spate of extended snow days or in the aftermath of a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy.
But the worldwide global coronavirus pandemic that has brought society to a near halt has raised the bar for parents who are striving to figure out how to maintain equilibrium at home while playing a greater role in the logistics around long-distance learning.
Over the last month, clients have expressed fear, frustration, and fatigue. But time at home in isolation with family has also given parents and their children a chance to bond and get to know each other in ways that may not have not been possible before. The pandemic forced us to slow down, take a breath, and re-examine just about everything in our lives.
It also may have inadvertently gifted parents of children with ADHD an opportunity to develop tools to better-manage the condition when the world emerges from this strange time. Isabel Ebrahimi, CMC, a Coach from Help is Here Coaching offers some guidance.
What’s In The Toolbox? Here are 8 Tips for Families to Help Children with ADHD Manage During the Coronavirus Crisis.
Develop a Daily Schedule for Everyone
One of the most important constructs for the pandemic is the need to create a daily schedule for everyone. Children with ADHD crave structure, routine and repetition. Those afflicted with hyperactivity disorder tend to be restless, while most ADHD children struggle with focus. Consult with your kids about their ideas for organizing the days. When kids with ADHD are included in the process, they are far more likely to cooperate. If there are two parents or older children who can care for those with ADHD, take shifts, tag team your work and child care.
Set The Alarm
Maintain specific times for waking up, getting started on studying and going to bed. Make sure medicine schedules are not altered and children eat three “squares” a day.
Where’s The Classroom?
Carve out physical spaces for yourself and your child to achieve work. It’s likely your child is struggling with this new learning model. Be on hand to assist, or at least get the child started. Give them space but stay close by in case they need guidance.
Ideally, set up a designated "learning room” or alcove – one that is not necessarily in the child’s room where there are too many electronic distractions.
Set up blocks of time for school work using incentives that matter to your child or teen. Build in timed breaks to stretch, move around or snack, and create a reward system for work accomplished.
Ask your child how long they think they can concentrate before needing a break. Depending on their level of interest and the challenge of the work, this period can last 5 to twenty minutes for elementary school kids. For middle and high school students, it varies between 15 and 45 minutes.
Keep Hearts Pumping
Start each day with a schedule for the whole family building in recreation or exercise. Go for group walks (bring the dog, even if he’s already been walked too many times), play in the yard, garden, bicycle if your live in a safe neighborhood.
Keep Kids Engaged
It’s difficult to entertain children all day long – you’re not a camp counselor. However, ADHD kids have trouble with focus and concentration. It’s important to build routine at a time when routine’s been tossed out the window. Engage your children in everything you can think of rather than letting them become withdrawn. If your child is struggling with social isolation, arrange for FaceTime sessions or interactive gaming sessions with friends.
Understandably, the novelty of house lockdown has worn off and it’s hard to sustain an upbeat mood. However, stay focused on using earned privileges because incentives motivate kids with ADHD best.
Set New Screen Time Limits
It’s reasonable to allow your child to have more screen time that usual but it is important to set limits. Act by example. Set up a family phone basket – everyone has to relinquish their phones for the same period of time. Something spontaneous may break out -- like a game of Monopoly or a baking session. May sound old school but dust off jigsaw puzzles, do art or science projects, make i-phone movies, do yoga. Clean or reorganize a room with your children. Make them part of the process.
Running The Ship
Every parent has different expectations for how their child participates in the maintenance of the home. The pandemic has opened new doors to foster teamwork, collaboration, and eye-opening reality of how quickly a house can become dirty when everyone’s there 24/7. Keep chores simple and doable. Link the completion of chores to incentives. Talk about how many reminders they need and in what form. Supervise them if necessary and offer positive reinforcement when they do what they are asked to do.
This Too Shall Pass
Try to remember these extreme circumstances are temporary. If you child isn’t cooperating, avoid conflict. Understand how difficult it is for everyone to process this strange new world. Meltdowns are inevitable. Schedule time apart to cool off before moving on to the next thing.
Finally, some children may find this disruption to be unsettling and have a hard time expressing fear or confusion. Share what you can with them. Be ready to answer questions and soothe worries. A lot is being asked of everyone these days but we may just look back one day and say the pandemic really reminded us how to be a family again.
This article was contributed by Isabel Ebrahimi, CMC, who runs a coaching practice Help is Here Coaching for families and children with ADHD. helpisherecoaching.com 917-359-5442 firstname.lastname@example.org