School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic are upending the lives of families across the U.S. Children with ADHD and their families face additional challenges since abrupt changes in routine make it harder for kids with ADHD to focus and regulate their emotions and behavior. Planned school closures lasting two weeks or more won’t simply look like extended weekends or snow days for kids or their parents.
Most (if not all) of the activities that provide important structure on weekends for kids with ADHD are being cancelled. Social distancing measures will mean that typical snow day neighborhood playdates and visits to the park won’t be an option. On top of this, many parents will still have work responsibilities, either via telework or in person, on days when schools are closed.
The coming weeks will not be easy, especially when you have a child with ADHD. Following these six tips will help things go as smoothly as possible when the kids are at home:
If you choose to shift these times away from your family’s usual school-day routine by letting your child sleep later in the morning and/or go to bed later in the evening, remember that you may struggle to get them back on their regular sleep schedule when school starts up again in a few weeks. Decide if the benefit of having later wake-times and bedtimes now is worth the cost of a sleep struggle later on when they return to school.
Regardless of your child’s school’s plan, every student should complete some academic work every day to avoid academic backsliding. Getting kids with ADHD to stay focused and on-task when completing academic assignments at home is a challenge (I’ll share more strategies related to this in a separate post), but you can maximize your child’s ability to focus and stay on task by scheduling academic time first thing in the morning.
It will be very tempting to allow your child to spend more than one hour on their screens, but the negative impact of extended screen time on behavior, focus, and sleep for kids with ADHD is very real. Extended screen time every day for up to two weeks (or more) can ultimately take a toll on your child and your family. Set appropriate screen time limits on Day 1 to avoid conflicts and limit testing down the line.
Whenever possible, encourage your child (and yourself) to be physically active outside. Schedule walks or bike rides. If you have a backyard, use it. On rainy days, kids can play Nerf basketball inside, and siblings can wrestle or have races up and down the hall. The trick is to allow them more freedom to be physically active inside by lifting some of the usual rules you may have (like no running in the house) by creating time slots when these activities are allowed and encouraged and monitoring your children to make sure they are still playing safely at these times.
Dealing with school closures and social distancing will be a challenge for everyone, and no one has all of the answers in this unprecedented situation. Every family will have to learn what works best for them through some trial and error. Starting with these six strategies will help set your child and your family up for success and will help you make the most of your time together in the weeks to come.
Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.
Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.
This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.