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When a child has ADD or ADHD, both kids and parents may dread homework time. Kids are tired, medications may be wearing off, and all the “fun” distractions of home are hard to ignore. The number one thing that you can do to help your child (and yourself) get through this homework period with a minimum of frustration is to create a rock solid routine that you and your child stick to like glue. Here’s how:
Time it right: A 2010 study found that boys with ADHD had 50% fewer problems than a control group if they did their homework within an hour of returning home and were not allowed to use technology before their homework was done. (This same study implemented a homework journal that traveled between home and school, and if it was forgotten or not completed, there was no technology allowed that night.) Create an “It’s homework time,” routine that is the same every night for your family. It should be not too far away from arriving home and preferably before dinner so that your child can relax with the rest of the family, but also not during a time when your child’s ADHD medication is wearing off.
If you have other children, have them do their homework at this time as well or complete a work project of your own so that your child can see that work is part of daily life for everyone. And—bad news, kids—when no homework is assigned, study time still happens. Plan puzzles, educational games, or books instead.
Set the ground rules: Structure is so important to building good habits, but it’s also helpful in reducing arguments. Creating homework rules is another important piece of the puzzle. Home work starts at 4 o’clock. After you work for 15 minutes, you can get up and move/have a snack for 5 minutes (for an example). Then it’s back to work. When conflicts arise, calmly point to the rules and help your child focus back on his work. Plan ahead to offer rewards for those days when things go well and consequences for days that things don’t. Keep in mind, the younger the child the more immediate the reward needs to be.
Getting the work done is only half the battle.
Create a homework spot. Though my own two kids seem to be able to get their schoolwork done in a classroom of 20+ kids, they are not able to finish their homework sitting next to each other at our kitchen table. Keep distractions in mind when creating your homework spot. A desk or table away from noisy family members and electronics is ideal, but too far away from you may mean that your child does not have enough support. Many children are distracted by household noises, but don’t do well in silence either. Consider a fan or white noise machine to help her tune out distractions and tune in on her homework.
Offer your support: Review your child’s homework with him before your start and be sure that he understands the directions. Go through the first couple problems together, then let him try one on his own. Then, back up and offer support only when needed. This ensures your child is not frustrated by his work, but also lets him practice his independence.
Getting the work done is only half the battle. Now the work has to make it’s way from your home to the teacher’s desk. If you have a child with ADHD, you know that the space between home and school is like the Bermuda Triangle—homework has a tendency to disappear never to be seen again. Consider giving your child a special binder for completed homework only. You can also ask your child’s teacher if he can turn it in first thing in the morning on his way to class, rather than waiting until later in the day.
If you can’t resolve your child’s homework problems on your own, consider a discussion with your child’s teacher to ask for accommodations, like only doing every other math problem, for example. In extreme cases, a 504 plan can also be written that requires the school to accommodate your child with ADHD.
Share your best homework tips with us in the comments below.