Coronavirus Tips for families with children with ADHD

COVID-19 Info for Families & Children with ADHD

The outbreak of the novel Coronavirus may be a stressful time for all of us. During this uncertainty, increasing anxiety can become problematic for many, especially for individuals and children with ADHD -- including their families. 

To manage the spread, many schools and parents are moving children’s learning to online platforms at home. These are necessary measures. However, many families now face new challenges. 

How can we care for our children with ADHD at home and keep them calm? 

How can we ensure they’re productive? 

How can we stay strong for our children, while not panicking ourselves? 

1. Helping kids with ADHD focus on work during COVID-19 home isolation

It is easy to become frustrated, focus on the negative aspects of your child’s behaviour and feel as though they are uncontrollable. Symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity can interfere with your child’s school work. 

Using effective rewards for work and ‘good behaviours’, and logical consequences for those undesired, can more likely improve your child’s behaviour. However, further anxieties and distractions regarding the novel Coronavirus can escalate symptoms, and make them harder to manage.

To improve task completion, the following strategies address the lack of motivation, boredom, organisation, and planning difficulties commonly experienced among children and adolescents with ADHD. 

Often, what impinges task motivation is boredom during a seemingly useless task, and not knowing how to successfully complete it -- especially when one has an extreme attention deficit and has extra anxieties and distractions.

Consequently, this leads to a vicious cycle of task avoidance, frustration in the child and among the family, as well as a decrease in the child’s self esteem, self-efficacy and lack of motivation.

 

Evidence-based strategies to help your child, include the following:

  • Provide clear instructions.
  • Prompt and encourage to keep them focused on tasks.
  • Keep an attractive work environment: a quiet place, uncluttered and clear from distractions. 
  • Visually map a routine and schedule, and maintain these routines despite long, flexible time to do things at home. 
  • Highlight most important information for written work and tasks with highest priority.
  • Highlight the best sections of their work to build their self-esteem.
  • Acknowledge their effort in tasks, even when they don’t succeed.
  • Choose the most productive time of day for completing work, such as the morning after breakfast.
  • Use short work time intervals and break times to manage overwhelming work, and prevent boredom with one task. Repeat, “First work, then play”. Consider using the ‘Pomodoro Technique’: work for 25mins, break for 5mins, repeat. It was found by researchers to improve concentration. Download the app for your device.
  • Use effective rewards, such as break times and especially fun, physical activities at home, not only to prevent burn out, but also for light exercise. 
  • Review accomplishments at the end of tasks and the day.

 

Strategies for increasing desired behaviour in the home:

  1. Implement a positive behaviour system, such as a reward chart for younger children, and token economy system for older. Change the rewards for smaller, more achievable goals, prevent boredom and increase motivation.
  2. Write down family rules and learning curriculum, with clear rewards and consequences for when they are followed, and when they aren’t. Be consistent when responding to behaviours.
  3. Encourage, praise and give attention to your child when they are friendly, considerate and helpful at home.
  4. Be consistent in enforcing logical consequences to undesired behaviours. For example, missing a favourite tv show episode when homework isn’t completed beforehand. (Note, reward: tv show, consequence: no tv show).
  5. Ensure rewards and consequences are provided immediately after the behaviour. 
  6. Everyday spend one-on-one time with your child, doing an activity they want to do, reminding them you enjoy their company and they are loved.

2. Managing your child’s uncertainty and anxiety about COVID-19

  1. Control your own anxiety. 

It is normal to feel anxious during times of uncertainty and dramatic lifestyle changes. However, if you are anxious, your children will also be anxious. 

 

Feel safe, stable and secure: 

Know the right facts and be well-informed by downloading the official COVID-19 app by the Australian Government from the Apple App Store or Google Play

Or, join the Australian Government’s COVID-19 WhatsApp channel via Whatsapp on iOS or Android. 

Only read information from reliable sources, and know the financial benefits you’re entitled to. 

Buy all your essentials from grocery stores and retailers (in moderation of course). See our Resources page for more!

 

Connectedness

Enjoy this time with your children (and pets)!

Use social media for good by engaging with family, friends (and coworkers).

Stay connected with your local community and culture (music, or linguistically diverse background)

Communities can exist from any basis of shared interest, whether that be physical location, hobby, cultural background or lived experience. Unfortunately, one-third of Australians are not connected with any community or social groups, and don’t have anyone to talk to. Researchers have found that communicating with people on social media, with shared interests and backgrounds, reduces the risk of mental illness.

 

Maintain Physical Health:

Practice your normal, regular routine: wake, eat and sleep as you normally would. 

Depending on your physical conditions and limitations, you can maintain physical health by doing housework and gardening. You can also enjoy alternative exercises at home or go for a walk in the neighbourhood with your pet. It is also a good way to boost your mood and improve your sleep. 

 

Enjoy Purposeful Activity:

Definitely don’t forget to set time for doing what relaxes you

  • Practice mindfulness, deep breathing and regular exercise at home, such as pilates. Check out the useful Government’s mental health website for your needs.
  • Set time with no social media or news for organising your space, decluttering, and finding new hobbies, such as cooking a new recipe, reading, or learning a new language.

 

Check out the Government’s new “Head to Health” website for more!

 

  1. Ask your children what they know and be aware how they are feeling. 

Calmly correct any false information they know, and show you understand their emotions. Support them, and dedicate time with them everyday. For example, watch a movie together in the evening after a long day of school work, cook dinner with them, at the end of the day, talk about what they accomplished, etc.

 

  • Model prevention behaviours with your children. 

 

Your children can only do the right thing, if they are shown the right thing. 

And when they do the right thing, reward them! For example, wash your hands with them for 20 seconds, singing the happy birthday song twice, before and after eating. When they do this themselves, praise them!

 

  • Provide reassurance and hope. 

 

Remind them that with friends and family, you have gotten over a lot of other things. 

  • For example, “remember how when Grandma was sick, we all helped her and got through it together”. 
  • Or, “remember when Dad had to go away for work and we were by ourselves, but together we got through it”. “Like all those other tough times, we can all get through this now”. 

3. Resources:

ADHD and positive parenting strategies online:

Reliable COVID-19 Updates

Mental Health Support, Awareness and Information: https://headtohealth.gov.au/

COVID-19 and your family:

How to prepare your family: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/coronavirus-prepare.html

Dr Shelley Hyman

About Dr Shelley Hyman

Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist. BSc (psychol) Hons, MClinNeuropsych, PhD (Med) MAPS CCN. Founder and director of the centre that was founded in 2006.

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