The Art of Balancing: How to Manage Homework and After-School Activities When Your Child Has ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

For children with ADHD, balancing homework with sports practices, music lessons, art classes or other after-school activities can be a challenge. Homework takes longer to complete when you have ADHD – sometimes hours longer—leading many parents to feel like their child simply doesn’t have time to participate in extracurricular activities. However, studies show that children who participate in after-school activities actually do better academically than those who don’t participate.

For children with ADHD, these activities also teach important social skills that can help strengthen their relationships with classmates and friends. When the after-school activities involve sports, they also provide an outlet for the physical activity that many children with ADHD crave and need. On top of this, for many children, scoring a goal or landing a role in a play can be the confidence boost they need—especially if they are struggling academically. So how do you support your child’s interest in extracurricular activities? Here are a few tips:

  1. Create a calendar. Many children with ADHD struggle with organization, but staying organized is essential when you’re working with a tight after-school schedule and competing priorities. Be a role model for your child and begin teaching organizational skills that will help them throughout life. Start by posting a calendar at home that shows both your child’s homework assignment deadlines and after-school activities (practice, games, performances, etc.). Involve your child in updating the calendar every time a new event or deadline needs to be added.
  2. Schedule homework time. Set aside designated time for homework each day.  Your child already understands the concept of blocking out scheduled time for practice and games. Extend this same concept to homework, where dedicated blocks of time are scheduled in advance throughout the week. Add these time blocks to the calendar and remind your child that they need to fit homework into these slots in order to participate in all of the fun activities they also have on the calendar.
  3. Plan proactively. When your child has a full schedule, there is less room wiggle room for cramming in last-minute assignments and study sessions. If a big test is coming up at the end of the week, help your child plan ahead and break test prep down into smaller chunks of time that they can fit into the pre-scheduled homework time blocks. Planning ahead is a challenge for many children with ADHD, so your child will need your help to learn this technique. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of helping them check the classroom’s online homework assignment system regularly so they are less likely to be surprised by an upcoming project deadline or exam.
  4. Enlist a tutor. Learning centers are designed to teach children study skills that will help them get their work completed more efficiently and effectively. Look for centers like Huntington, where instructors are experienced in helping children with ADHD.
  5. Make participation a privilege that comes with meeting homework goals. Participation in extracurricular activities can be a powerful motivator when participation is linked to reaching homework goals. Let your child know that they can only participate if they consistently complete homework and don’t miss assignments regularly. This can go a long way toward helping children with ADHD prioritize their assignments and cut out distractions when time is short. Note that the goals should be focused on homework completion (effort) rather than homework grades (performance). Children can control whether or not they get their work done, but they can’t always control the grade they receive. This is especially true for children with ADHD whose effort isn’t always reflected in their grades.

Balancing school and extracurriculars is more art than science, but it’s worth the time to find a balance that works for your family.


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

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