When ‘normal’ no longer exists for a child with ADHD, their world goes into freefall– and so does their state of mind. When the pandemic surfaced and significant societal changes took place, the impact on children in care diagnosed with ADHD was severe. Unable to stick to their essential routines which gave their life the structure they needed, they were suddenly forced to stay indoors with no clarity, and no answers.
This is a frustrating enough scenario for anyone, let alone those battling the most common neurodevelopmental disorder that expresses itself through behaviours such as a short attention span, constant fidgeting, and acting without thinking, to name a few symptoms of ADHD.
How anxiety for children with ADHD manifests
When someone with ADHD worries excessively, this can actually become a threat to their general health. Research shows that up to 40% of people with ADHD also having generalised anxiety disorder, which in combination can have several emotional and physical impacts, such as:
- Insomnia or disruption of sleep due to worry
- Inability to concentrate
- IBS or loss/increase in appetite
- Using substances to cope
These are just a few of the ways that those with ADHD express themselves, and as the days indoors continue to add up, things can get even more challenging. In the case of children, they require additional structure and support to manage their behaviours. knowing the most effective ways to help children weather the storm can be essential to keeping them stimulated, entertained and feeling safe.
Great Tips for Entertaining Kids with ADHD at Home
Talk to the school
The teachers at school and support staff are the most experienced with helping children with ADHD. They have probably tried numerous approaches, tools and methods to help children stay focused. Moreover, carers or parents should ask as many questions as they can. Some good things to ask might be ‘What worked in the past to help my child remain focused in class?’ or ‘How much should I be helping them with their work?’, for example.
Have structure and keep it consistent
For children with ADHD, the more uncertainty they have to deal with, the more hectic their lives become. There are several great examples of guides on the internet that help provide younger children with a schedule, so that they know when activities will occur, which is ultimately much more rewarding for them.
Take plenty of breaks
Short bursts of activity work best with young children, especially those with ADHD. Studies reveal that kids can focus for longer periods of time as they grow older, so it is important to take your child’s stage of life into consideration.
Brain Balance Centres provides a good framework to follow:
Average attention spans work out like this:
- 2 years old: four to six minutes
- 4 years old: eight to 12 minutes
- 6 years old: 12 to 18 minutes
- 8 years old: 16 to 24 minutes
- 10 years old: 20 to 30 minutes
- 12 years old: 24 to 36 minutes
- 14 years old: 28 to 42 minutes
- 16 years old: 32 to 48 minutes
In the case of children with ADHD, these time estimations would most likely need to be further divided, in order to keep them actively engaged and interested. Remember to let the children know upfront what they need to do, within a clear set amount of time and track their progress afterwards when setting tasks.
Mix it up
Alternating activities is a great way to make a child’s day more interesting and keep their mind stimulated. Staggering the schedule of activities, breaking things up and adding in rewards for good behaviour are all constructive ways to help keep children motivated.
Keep it positive
Encouraging communication and reinforcement that is both bold and quick works well for children who have shorter attention spans and struggle to control impulsive behaviour. This resource from Intermountain Healthcare focuses on some great ways to communicate with a child who has ADHD.
Overall, it is important to remain patient! If you have been struggling throughout lockdown, start putting in place these tips, and take time to know what works best in your child’s specific case. As a carer, parent, or professional working with children, it’s important to manage your own expectations too.
Don’t expect too much, in too little time.
Work on setting small, achievable goals and working up from there, so children who cannot access their usual routines can help to bring more security, stability and ease back into their lives.