7 Ways to Manage Homework
Managing homework time with ADHD in kids or kids with ADHD symptoms can be a particularly difficult.
Your child has spent the day sitting at a desk, with pent up energy not allowed to move or make a sound. And you’ve spent all day running around before and after work, everyone is irritable, tired and probably hungry. So how do we make homework time easier for everyone?
Before we begin: these tips will take time to work. Think about implementing each one week after week. Too much change for the ADHDer is a cocktail for disaster.
1. Condition your child to “turn on” when it’s time for homework
In my undergraduate I would go to the library, and find a study cubby when it was time to do my philosophy midterm and final papers. It worked like a charm! This went on for 2 years; same cup of coffee, same cubby, same music to listen to while I worked. As soon as I would sit I’d immediately be “in the zone”. My longest stent was 5 hours in the cubby for an A- paper (it works)! I digress; what I had done was conditioned myself to switch to work mode when all those things were in place. Like Pavlov and his dogs.
2. Go over one piece of homework at a time. Read the directions to them, have them repeat or re-read them to you, and remind them again just before they begin…and during.
For the ADHDer, details can be our kryptonite, especially if they’re details of a boring topic. Reviewing directions may help sink in the task, especially if your child has poor reading comprehension. Having them repeat it will help them formulate it in their mind, and reminding them will put them back on target if/when they drift off for a moment.
3. Have them stand or kneel to do their work
This has been the greatest trick I’ve used on myself, and my clients. Why? Because we can’t sit still! When we stand we can shift from hip to hip, move our feet all while still leaning over our work. If you need to take it up a notch give your child a ball under their feet to roll while they work. The balance of the ball will also help them focus.
4. Set a timer for how long they will work and how long their break will be. Give them access to the timer so they can see the countdown
There’s nothing worse for an ADHDer than not knowing how long they have to endure a boring task. Give them a timer so they can see and race against it to get their work done. Follow this with a breather and a “reset” from the task with a movement break. Feel free to shorten the work to fit your child’s age and ADHD. Food for thought: Unless I’m in the zone (more on this below) my work times do not last more than 30 min and my breaks are 10min.
Side note: In the beginning stay firm with the breaks, however, as your child gets better they may develop their ability to “hyper-focus”. If this happens, they’ll get more quality work done than their non-ADHD peers in half the time. Let them keep working.
5. Break down large tasks into smaller to-do’s (especially if they have projects or long pieces of work)
This tip is similar to #4. We want to break down everything into small steps. This will help the ADHDer build momentum and feel accomplished. I prefer to-do lists so I can cross through what I’ve completed, then when I’m completely done (and forgotten what all I did), I can feel extra good about my productivity.
6. Go for quality not quantity of (home)work
In the beginning, like a year, these rules will be difficult to put in place, because change is hard for everyone. With that in mind, the work may suffer, but once all of these are firing at the same time the quantity and quality of the work will improve! Be forgiving, eventually your child will learn to monitor themselves and following these tips, in and out of school, and well into adulthood.