Are you a parent at home suddenly trying to teach a child with ADHD in the middle of the corona virus pandemic and battling the forces of guilt between what you should have them doing and what they are actually and realistically doing? Well, don’t beat yourself up! These are strange and unusual times for everyone and we are all in the same boat.
Trying to teach a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a different job than parenting them. You will become more acutely aware of their shortcomings in terms of attention and focus, and you might find that you become frustrated trying to get through that list that their teacher provided while keeping yourself from pulling out your hair!
At ADHD Ireland, we want you to know that you are not alone and that we are hearing from parents all over Ireland with the same challenges and struggles every day.
We have put together a simple guide to coping with this new “normal” for parents and we hope that it will help you find the right balance for your family:
Manage your daily schedule:
Being outside our usual routine unsettles all of us, even more so a child with ADHD. Both adults and children may be happier with a rough schedule day to day. Use a piece of paper or whiteboard and post it somewhere that everyone can see it. If you can build it with your children, that’s even better because then they will feel involved and that their input is valued.
- Schedule exercise time – taking a walk, playing the back garden, dancing in the living room, whatever your little ones enjoy
- Set aside time for schoolwork using some of the lessons provided by your child’s teacher and also some basics like writing a daily diary for handwriting practice or drawing a picture of springtime, depending on your child’s age
- Schedule some creative time – this can be vague enough that it can be either art, story writing or even games, whatever the mood takes on each particular day
- Create a chore schedule to keep your physical environment together—it will help the children feel they are contributing to the overall running of the house
But don’t forget, it is about balance between school work and free time. Don’t try to do it all.
Try stick to your usual routine
Getting up and dressed at around the same time every day and going to bed at the usual time is the best way to keep your children in their normal healthy routine. There can be a tendency to relax the rules around bedtime and switching off TV and devices at night during holiday times, but you need to remember that technically, this isn’t a holiday! Most parents are going to be juggling work at home as well as home schooling and entertaining their children, so it is best to try and treat this time as if you are in school-mode and stick to the usual routine.
Maintain a positive mood
The bombardment of news and doom and gloom can take its toll on all of us, but it can especially impact children who are exposed to it throughout the day. Children are very intuitive and they pick up on our anxieties and fears. If we are overly obsessing about the corona virus, you can be sure your children and picking up on that too. This can cause anxiety in children – quite often children with ADHD can tend to hyper-focus more on a topic than neurotypical children – meaning that it can end up affecting their sleep and their overall wellbeing. Explain COVID-19 and the purpose of being homebound in an age-appropriate and positive manner to children. Explain that it is temporary and things will be back to normal very soon. Create an open and positive environment where children feel they can ask questions or express their concerns.
The instruction to stay homebound does mean that your children are probably starting to miss their close friends and their wider family members such as grandparents or cousins. To keep them connected to their wider family circle and their friends, arrange Skype or FaceTime calls and even encourage younger children to write letters to their friends and if they live close by, drop the letter into their post box – what a nice surprise!
While digital devices serve a valuable purpose for us all now during this time of social distancing, it is important to avoid over-exposure to screens for your children. If your children are young teenagers, there is a risk that they will be on social media and might find that there is too much information there on corona virus for them to fathom. For younger children, too much screen time can cause them to become agitated, edgy and wound-up. Open-ended limits on screen time can lead to arguing, so it is best to set the time limit in advance so that everyone knows where they stand.
Lots of exercise!
Daily exercise will make your children happier, even if they complain—and probably make you happier too. It is widely proven that exercise is beneficial to mental health and can be a real advantage to those with ADHD, releasing much needed dopamine which aids focus and concentration. It also releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemical in the brain thereby lifting spirits and boosting one’s mood at this challenging time. A great tip for getting your kids moving is the Operation Transformation 10 at 10 exercises which can easily be done either inside or outdoors, weather allowing. You can access the easy to follow videos here https://rtejr.rte.ie/10at10/
Enjoy the down time too
Remember every parent in the country is in exactly the same shoes as you and very few of us are teachers! Take it easy on yourself and don’t stress yourself trying to keep up with the syllabus that your child’s educators were working through. It is okay to just get by now with a minimal amount of academia for your child. He or she will not fall behind their peers – remember we are all in the same boat! Let it be enough that you just appreciate this gift of time that you have been given with your little ones and just roll with it. Enjoy the time together. Teach your child how to bake, sew, dance or draw a giraffe. There isn’t an exam at the end of this for parents. See it as a positive opportunity to enjoy some precious time with your children.
For more information on COVID-19 corona virus log onto https://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus/
A list of educational and entertainment resources for parents: