You know that you need to stay focused when you are doing your homework or studying for a test, but sometimes it just seems impossible. If you’re like most teens with ADHD, you always have intentions but no matter how hard you try you always seem to get distracted. Usually, the longer you work the more easily distracted you become! Why? Because our brains are not designed to focus on a single task for hours at a time, even when ADHD isn’t part of the picture. Add ADHD into the mix and trying to focus for long stretches become truly overwhelming. Research shows that the average amount of homework assigned to high school students is 3 hours a night. So, how can you possibly complete that much work if your brain can’t seem to focus for a 3-hour stretch? Well, a tomato may be able to help!
Everyone procrastinates sometimes. It’s human nature. But when you procrastinate so often that it prevents you from reaching your full potential and adds stress and anxiety to your life, then it’s a problem. You’re not alone. Most people with ADHD (and many people without ADHD) struggle with procrastination. The good news is that you can break the procrastination cycle with two steps: first identify the ADHD tendencies that cause you to procrastinate and then make some relatively simple changes that will help you overcome these challenges.
Every time a test comes around the same symptoms start to crop up. Your child complains of headaches or stomachaches, has trouble sleeping, cries or becomes or irritable, and may even beg to stay home from school. Older kids and teens may tell you that they're worried about a test, say that they're going to fail, or fear that they'll panic and their mind will go blank when the exam is in front of them. Test anxiety is a very real problem that affects 25-40% of students, and occurs more often in kids and teens with ADHD. While a mild amount of anxiety can actual help with focus during study sessions and exams, the high levels of stress, nervousness, and fear that accompanies test anxiety will actually have the opposite effect.
Messy handwriting that results in illegible homework assignments and sloppy work is a frustrating problem for many kids with ADHD. Handwriting difficulties often leave parents and teachers wondering why kids who are bright and knowledgeable can seem to be so "careless" when they complete assignments. Kids and teens get frustrated because they lose points on homework and tests not because they didn't know the material but because their answers weren't legible. As kids get older and more of their written communication occurs electronically, having neat handwriting becomes less problematic on a day-to-day basis. But during the school years, handwriting weaknesses contribute to poor academic performance, anxiety, stress and lower self-esteem.
When your child has ADHD getting them to follow through on seemingly simple requests can be frustrating and challenging. You've probably wondered more than a few times how your child is able to tune you out so effectively, to the point where he or she seems to literally not hear you when you ask him or her to do something. Or you struggle to understand what exactly happens when you ask him or her to go put on his or her shoes and socks only to have them come back 20 minutes later with a sock on one foot and no shoes in sight. Moments like these are par for the course when you have a child with ADHD, but there are things you can do to make these moments less frequent. The way that you give your child instructions can have a huge impact on his or her ability to follow through. And, when you pair these effective instructions with praise for a job well done, you'll see big improvements and less frustration all around.
In the past few years there has been a surge in our understanding of executive functioning skills and how they overlap with ADHD. As a parent of a child or teen with ADHD you've likely come across articles about executive functioning online or heard the term mentioned by teachers at your child's school. However, many parents don't feel as though they really understand what executive functioning skills are or how they relate to ADHD. Developing a clear understanding of executive functions can help you think more broadly about your child's ADHD symptoms, and might even help you identify new strategies for helping your child succeed at school and at home.
Clean your room! This single sentence is all but guaranteed to trigger a cascade of arguments in any family with an ADHD child. Kids with ADHD struggle with organization, and their apparent resistance to keeping their room clean causes tremendous stress and frustration for parents and kids alike. It's typical for a parent to send a child with ADHD off to clean his or her room only to check on him or her an hour later and find that nothing has been done. Or to have their child proudly announce that he or she has finished cleaning when in fact he or she has only picked up a handful of items off of the floor. Does he or she not see the mess? Does he or she not care that his or her parents are becoming frustrated and threatening to take away privileges if he or she doesn't clean up? Many parents start to wonder if the frustration and hassle is worth it. Maybe they should just pick their battles and let their child's room stay messy?
Opening presents over the holidays was fun and exciting, but now just a few short weeks later those presents have probably just been added to the mound of "stuff" that is cluttering your child's space and your home. For kids with ADHD, this extra stuff can make it much harder to stay organized, keep track of their things, and find what they need when they need it. As disorganization increases, so does frustration over lost and misplaced items, arguments over messy rooms, and difficulty focusing on important tasks like getting ready in the morning and getting homework done. For kids with ADHD, tackling clutter and staying organized is especially challenging, and most of the time it's not something they can manage on their own. They need extra help from parents to create and stick with an organization plan that works. The first step involves helping your child whittle down the amount of stuff that he or she has have until he or she is left only with the things that that he or she really needs or enjoys and uses regularly.
Every parent needs to give their child negative consequences or punishment sometimes. The trick, as I discussed last week, is to use negative consequences sparingly and use positive strategies, like coaching, modeling, praise, and rewards, as often as possible to teach and reinforce good behavior. When you do need to use negative consequences, like taking away a privilege or favorite game or toy, there are a number of things you can do to make it more likely that these consequences will be effective, and your relationship with your child will remain positive.
Kids with ADHD often struggle to follow through on the things that are expected of them, make impulsive choices, and have a hard staying calm in stressful situations. This understandably leads many parents to feel like they are constantly correcting and reprimanding their child – not because they want to, but because they don’t know what else to do. Using positive strategies like giving attention, praise, and rewards for good behavior can go a long way in reducing the need for negative consequences and that constant stream of negative feedback. In an ideal world positive strategies would be all that you would need to help your child learn new skills and behave in ways that will keep him or her safe and happy. But in reality, positive strategies aren’t always enough. Every parent needs to use negative consequences sometimes, but knowing when to use them can be tricky.