Q: I cannot get my child to focus on school work. I have tried helping him myself throughout the school year, but he is always distracted with something and cannot sit still for even five minutes. He was recently diagnosed with ADHD and I’m starting to think that label is taking over his school life and impact his motivation and confidence. How can I best support him and help him to learn to focus?

A: It is widely understood that kids with ADHD have it tough when it comes to school and homework.  Most kids thrive in routines that help them to be organized in their academic and social life, but kids with ADHD need an even more structured and consistently followed routine than more typical learners. Keeping that in mind, here are some helpful tips from for coping with these types of situations:

  1. Keep an agenda. Create a folder that tells your child what has been completed and what is left to do. Try to not overwhelm them with homework because children with ADHD get frustrated easily when they perceive a task as too lengthy. Also allow adequate time for your child to organize tasks involved in their homework assignments, while giving them your full focus to ensure the plan they develop is realistic and executable. This will help ensure that your child understands the steps involved in what they are being asked to do.
  2. Help build their team. Ask your child to pick a peer or trusted adult to help them with their homework.  The use of a partner can motivate your child to complete assignments and makes tasks seem less daunting when done with a friend or mentor.
  3. Busy hands, calm mind.  Helping your child identify a small object to fidget with when attending to a task can assist them in remaining calm, relaxed, and focused.  For example, try making your child sit on an exercise ball while studying.
  4. Create a peaceful work space.  Creating a calming, quiet environment for your child to do their homework helps lessen the amount of external distractions while increasing the opportunity for them to remain engaged and focused on necessary tasks.
  5. Motivate and Support. Praising children for their effort helps them remain motivated and contributes to increased resiliency when faced with self-doubt.

Originally printed in the Lakelands Leader in our advice column The Laudable Life