By Guest Blogger Juan Santos M.S., CRC, LCMHC
As a parent, watching my kids grow and learn during COVID, I can tell you that I am amazed and proud to see how they are navigating such difficult waters. Parenting and homeschooling a child with ADHD is a ball game of its own that requires a different set of strategies to make things to work.
Below is one such strategy that I’ve implemented. I like to call it, school on wheels.
I set up her bicycle with the training wheels. Below each training wheel is a shoe. The shoes allow the back wheel not to touch the floor. Sitting on top was my hyperactive and beautifully intelligent daughter Nola. Her legs moving faster than the speed of light. Her bicycle was perfectly positioned in front of the kitchen table where her iPad sat presenting the recorded lecture for her class.
At this point, you probably get why I call it, school on wheels.
Homeschooling a child with ADHD during COVID has its challenges. I see this as a parent, and also witness it on a professional level as a counselor. COVID has been present for around 6 months, and in that time I have developed creative ways to support my ADHD child with homeschooling.
Below are strategies to practice when homeschooling your ADHD child:
1. Create Healthy Expectations. Education is one avenue of growth, not the sole avenue. As such, take time to create realistic expectations for you and your child. As an example, yesterday my daughter got stuck in her art activity and became restless. Which by the way is a common symptom of ADHD. During this time, I noticed that she moved around in her chair almost as if she was dancing. In this moment, I could have done two things. One, pushed her to stop moving and focus. Or acknowledge the symptoms of ADHD and take a different approach.
The expectation in our home is to learn and grow. Learning and growing take place at a better level when we enjoy the process. As such, the expectation that I followed in that situation was to give her a break. During the breaks she stands up and moves around. Or she will run outside and play on the swing.
2. Create A Schedule. A common symptom of ADHD is associated to difficulty in paying attention or feeling overwhelmed when taking on too many things. In your home, find a way to segment the day for your child. This helps to improve concentration and your child’s ability to enjoy the task. At one point my daughter shouted to me, I NEED A BREAK. My immediate thought was, consequence time. Seconds later, my rational thoughts kicked in like Spiderman’s spider senses. This was my wakeup call as a parent to hear my daughter. She needed a break with her schoolwork.
As an example, at home her school day has breaks incorporated into it as a way to help with attention and focus. What I noticed is that she is able to pay better attention now.
3. Utilize Purposeful Consequences. Parenting is hands down no walk in the park. Homeschooling during COVID has required me and my wife to be tested as a couple and parents. As a parent to a child with ADHD, I found myself giving way too many consequences. Maybe some parents reading this can sympathize. In full transparency, the early days of COVID, homeschooling ended with at least 5 consequences or remarks related to behavior.
I found myself saying things like sit down, stop bouncing around, or please pay attention. Purposeful consequences take place when a parent reduces punishment while rewarding positive behaviors. This is specifically helpful when parenting ADHD due to the symptoms of ADHD often being connected to the issue at hand.
As an example, when my daughter is doing an awesome job paying attention in class. I STOP and give her a KINDNESS. I reward her positive behavior by giving her words of kindness or a small material gift. What takes place is that she is able to build a relationship between positive behaviors and rewards. This right away increases the behavior from continuing to take place.
4. Create Time For Connecting. My child’s ADHD may be different than yours. Yet, there is this beautiful way to build a bridge that allows parents to connect with their child during the journey of homeschooling amidst COVID.
An activity to practice is having a space to communicate. My daughter and I like to play with toys or build forts out of covers and pillows. During this time, we talk and build a connection. I ask her questions about what it’s like having me or mom as her home teacher. We talk about what she enjoys about having class on the iPad and what’s annoying. This has proven to be a great space to talk about ADHD.
5, Practice Vulnerability. From one parent to another life can be a roller coaster. Sometimes I’ll sit back and watch my daughter navigate her iPad during class. I think to myself, man this is so much to expect from her. To wake up and have class on a tablet with no students around her. To somehow find motivation and interest in the recorded sessions and live sessions.
With this being said, I’ve found myself being vulnerable with my daughter as a way to help her navigate school. Vulnerability means that I share my experiences and frustrations with my daughter in order to help her acknowledge that we are both navigating a journey of life.
As an example, not too long ago. I found her frustrated with her math homework. She just completed a recorded lecture. She seemed stuck and frustrated. In that moment, I sat with her and listened. We put away her work. I shared with her a difficult day I had prior in a way appropriate to a child. Her eyes lite up and this sparked a moment of connection and vulnerability. As we continue speaking, she herself returned to the schoolwork.
I find that when we as parents are vulnerable, it helps our kids see and hear us as parents while they themselves being seen and heard.
6. Cold beers. I like cold beers and if you don’t that’s okay. The focus here is self-care. When it comes to self-care, I like to exercise, take the canoe out, or sit on the back deck and enjoy a good quality IPA with my wife. What do you do for self-care? Homeschooling your child during COVID requires that as parents we give ourselves the gift of space to breathe and relax. We take time to step away from life to reset and gather our thoughts and feelings. From one parent to all those reading, I want to encourage you to religiously set time to give yourself self-care. You’ll appreciate this. Your kids will appreciate this.
As you walk away from this reading, take with your strategies to navigate homeschooling your ADHD child during COVID. Take with your patience and the openness to learn. As parents we can give ourselves the gift to learn from our kids. We can give ourselves the gift to give our child the same patience and kindness that we ourselves desire.
~ For more blogs on education during Covid, click here.
~ For more blogs on special needs in education, click here.
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