Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Parenting a Kid with ADHD: Managing Home School

Evidence-based practices to help kids with ADHD at home.

Source: Shutterstock

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders. Symptoms of ADHD may include difficulties with maintaining attention, being hyperactive, and impulsive behaviors.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), to be diagnosed, a child must exhibit six or more symptoms for a minimum of six months and must experience difficulties in two or more settings, such as home, school or in public.

Common behaviors of ADHD may include:

  • Failing to complete a task like homework
  • Difficulty maintaining attention during play
  • Problems following multiple-step instructions
  • Losing objects necessary to complete tasks or activities
  • Often fidgeting with hands or having difficulties sitting still
  • Runs or climbs in inappropriate situations, such as in the classroom
  • Blurts out answers or comments

Currently, many parents are responsible for providing home school to their children due to school closures as a result of coronavirus restrictions. Although most schools have provided assignments or online learning environments, parents may experience some challenges with keeping a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD on-task.

Parenting Strategies to Help With Homeschooling a Child With ADHD

Below are some general strategies to help you and your child. It is important to remember that not all children with ADHD may benefit from the same strategies. If feasible, be sure to seek consultation from your therapist or mental health provider for specific recommendations based on your child’s needs.

Establish a routine. Flexibility is important to consider, as life does not always go as planned. However, most children benefit from the structure in their lives. Having a routine is particularly useful to help children with ADHD learn expectations. This may involve identifying a morning schedule or nighttime routine before bed.

Provide clear instructions. Kids with ADHD often have difficulties following directions or doing that that involve multiple steps. For example, if you tell them it’s time to go do your homework that could be overwhelming. You should provide simple instructions and break things down into smaller tasks. Instead of saying, “Go do your schoolwork for the next hour,” say, “Work on reading five pages from your book.” It might also be helpful to use a simple behavior chart to reward the child along the way.

Practice positive parenting. If your child develops behavior problems or has difficulties staying on task, avoid yelling or punishing the child. These strategies will be less useful and will increase your frustration. Try to focus on encouraging positive behavior and do not overemphasize the “undesired behavior.”

Children learn better when they are instructed on how to behave. To help your child, redirect them so that they understand what’s expected of them. Boys Town—an organization focused on helping children reach their full potential—offers some parenting guides that may be useful.

Create a reward system. Rewards and reinforcement are helpful in motivating children. You can use different methods of positive reinforcement, such as behavior charts to reinforce the behaviors you want to see or to reward children for meeting specific learning goals.

One way is to use stickers or a token economy that rewards children after they have met a pre-determined goal. For example, if they completed four out of five of their school assignments, they can earn 20 minutes of playing a game with you or their peer. It’s important to remember that for the reward to be meaningful, it should be something that the child would enjoy. Sample reward coupons can be found at Free Printable Behavior Charts .

It’s important to keep in mind that each child will experience ADHD differently. If you have concerns about your child, you should consult a licensed mental health professional or pediatrician to determine specific recommendations.

Copyright 2020 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.