- School Smarts
“Have you finished your homework?”
As any parent of a teenager knows, there is no question in the parenting repertoire that can elicit such extreme responses as this one. From an elated “Yes!” to an angry “Ugh, I will!” to ... total silence … homework can be a polarizing topic in any household.
However, homework is a routine and necessary part of every student’s education. The older a student gets, the more homework they can expect -- and the more independent they are expected to be in its completion.
As parents, we understand this. But as parents of an adolescent with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), we also know that this is a direct conflict with our child’s difficulties with sustained attention, planning, organization, sequencing, and task initiation.
So what do we do? We fight about it -- with our child, and sometimes with our spouse -- even though this rarely ends with the work being completed and is frustrating for all parties involved. But what else can we do?
The good news is that there are steps parents can take to help their adolescent children with ADHD succeed with their homework. Here are our top tips for becoming your child’s homework hero:
#1: Partner with your child’s school.
If your child cannot remember to bring the proper books home, ask the school to provide you with a separate set of texts and handouts for home. (Here at TQS, this is a frequent arrangement we make with our families.) A second set of texts and handouts is a common Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 accommodation.
If your school uses a learning management program such as Google Classroom, that’s terrific -- just make sure you get your child’s login credentials so that you can stay updated on assignments. If not, establish a system with your teenager and their teacher for communicating assignments. Some children use their phones to take pictures of the board, others use phones for voice memos, others still respond well to planners. Just be sure you, your teenager, and the teacher are all in alignment and have a consistent communication plan in place. (This can also be mandated in an IEP or 504 if the teacher is uncooperative.)
#2: Establish a time and place.
Pick one place in your home that is as free of distractions as possible and create a homework home base. Forming good habits requires consistency, and part of creating a predictable routine is having a predicable workspace.
Keep the clutter to a minimum, and have supplies readily at hand. (Nothing throws off an adolescent who finally got to work like having to go into another room to sharpen their pencils!) In addition to a fixed place, it’s helpful for children with ADHD to have fixed homework times. Some adolescents do better coming directly home from school and getting their work done, while others need a brain break between school and homework time. The actual time doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it works for your teenager, and it’s consistent.
#3: Talk to your child’s doctor.
If your child takes medication to treat their ADHD, they may need a pulse of medication for homework time. Adolescents with ADHD are often less able to sustain attention and initiate tasks at home than they are at school, so expecting them to do more with less may not be the best approach.
This can have major implications on your child’s sleeping and eating, so please talk to your physician before adjusting medication schedules.
#4: Know when to call it done.
Engaging in homework is difficult for all students, but especially those with ADHD. Know when your child is just done, and allow them to call it the end.
Go back to those lines of communication you established in tip #1 and communicate with your child’s teacher as necessary. Better yet -- since your child is now in high school and will need self-advocacy skills for college and work -- coach your child to have that conversation with their teachers themselves.
#5: Just be there.
Sometimes for our ADHD teenagers, we must serve as the frontal lobe of their brains. By just sitting there with them, even while focusing on your own work or reading a good book, your proximity will help your teenager stay on task.
Once you are successfully using this strategy, very gradually wean them off of it by leaving the room for a few minutes at a time. Gradually increase the time you are away and your child is working independently.
Those are five ways you can make the homework experience more positive and successful -- for both you and your child with ADHD. Do you have any additional homework tips to share? Add them to the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.