I have heard countless times from a parent that their child holds it together at school but melts down as soon as they arrive home. The parent cannot help but feel guilt that they are doing something wrong. If you are only seeing the negative behaviors at home, it must be your fault, right? No. A child who has an attention deficit disorder is completely wiped out from the energy it took to make it through the school day. Here are some tips to bring peace in the afternoon.
Make a schedule. Being able to anticipate what to expect significantly minimizes the anxiety a child with an attention deficit disorder experiences. Have a schedule that is visual to all family members. Make sure your child knows when it is time to study each day and what is expected each night.
Give your child a break. School is hard for many children, but it can be overwhelming for a child with an attention deficit disorder. When your child arrives home from school, make sure there is at least 30 minutes of free time. Allow the child to have a high protein snack and relax.
Use positive reinforcement. Many parents complain that a child should not be rewarded for doing behaviors that are expected. However, behavior change is most significant when a person has positive reinforcement. With your schedule, keep a list of expected responsibilities. Allow the child to earn screen or video game time by completing the expected responsibilities and assigned homework during the scheduled time. Instead of using punishment to take away privileges allow the child to earn privileges. Never shy from complimenting your child on good behavior, even if it is something that you expect.
Set your child up for success. Do not expect a child with an attention deficit disorder to be able to come home from soccer at 9 and then complete homework. It will be too much, and the child will likely have an emotional outburst. Instead plan to do more homework earlier in the week, wake earlier the next morning, or even skip soccer that day. Know your child’s limitations and respect them.
Lastly, stay calm. A person with an attention deficit disorder is very sensitive to the emotions around them. It will be tempting to lose your cool when things escalate. However, remaining calm is the best practice to help a child remain calm. Practice calming exercises, such as deep breathing when everyone is relaxed in order to utilize that strategy when emotions escalate.
Written by Clinical Director Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC