If you start reading too much about your child’s recent ADHD diagnosis, you can fall down some pretty convoluted rabbit holes. The more we know, the less we’re certain of… ADHD manifests in different ways for different people and its cause is attributed to biology and environment. As far as brain research goes, it’s been identified in lower levels of activity in those parts of the brain that control attention and activity level— the frontal lobes.
There’s enough brain science research out there to identify the frontal lobes as the “CEO” of our brains. Our frontal lobes are still actively developing into our early 20s, which explains why teenagers make such stupendously terrible decisions.
Ah, the frontal lobes…it’s where the conductor of our brain waves his baton to keep all systems in harmony and synchronized. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti…
…BLAAAAT! Beware the incessant tapping from that restless foot or fidgety finger.
…or SCREEEE! You pick up a conversational topic from 20 minutes ago, even though everyone else has long since moved on.
…or KA-DOMPA! Someone’s snapping their fingers to get your attention because you’ve just taken a little daydream in the middle of class.
And that’s what happens to the sweet symphony of your focus when you have attention difficulties.
Affecting almost 10% of all children ages four through 17, ADHD certainly appears to be on the rise – or at least, the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD is increasing. And considering that most everything in life – from homework to learning how to drive to behavior at a birthday party – requires excellent “conductor” skills, shouldn’t our understanding and wealth of helpful strategies increase as well?
Be systematic with space and time.
WHERE your child does homework should be distraction-free, well-stocked with all needed supplies, and comfortable (but not too comfortable).
WHEN and HOW LONG your child does homework needs to be a consistently established routine that works for your family. Figure in 10 minute breaks for every 20-30 minutes of work and try to do homework at the same time each day (and for a dedicated time period over the weekend).
Listen carefully and practice.
PEER RELATIONS may be difficult to navigate – sometimes kids with ADHD don’t have the same emotional controls as their same-age peers. Role-playing, coaching, and even social skills counseling are considerations for some kids.
Solve problems together.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT of large tasks, managing behavior, and self-monitoring are difficult for anyone, even if you don’t have ADHD, so take a positive problem-solving approach with your child. This approach addresses the breakdowns or negative behaviors as problems that are solvable, instead of something intrinsically “bad” or “wrong” about your child.
LOOK INTO THE FUTURE and if you see a potentially attention-taxing event or situation on the horizon, don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. Preview what might come up, role-play responses, and highlight your expectations.
Frontal lobes need a lot of structure and parameters; they need opportunities to practice and problem-solve; and they need to learn how to preview and self-monitor. There’s a lot of advice out there. Just remember that a positive approach, clear expectations, and a healthy sense of humor will get you most of the way in helping your child cope with ADHD.
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