For kids with ADHD balancing homework with interests in sports, music, art or other after-school activities can be a challenge. Homework takes longer to complete when you have ADHD – sometimes hours longer, leading many parents to feel like their child simply doesn’t have time to participate in extracurricular activities. However, studies show that kids who participate in after-school activities actually do better academically than those who don’t participate. For kids with ADHD, these activities also teach important social skills that can help strengthen their relationships with classmates and friends. When the afterschool activities involve sports, they also provide an outlet for the physical activity that many kids with ADHD crave. On top of this, for many kids, scoring a goal or landing a role in a play can be an extraordinary confidence boost that finds its way into all aspects of their life, especially if the challenges of ADHD have them struggling academically. So how do you support your child and ensure they thrive in both school and in extracurricular activities?
- Create a calendar. Many kids with ADHD struggle with organization, but staying organized is essential when you’re working with a tight after school schedule and competing priorities. Be a role model for your child and begin teaching organizational skills that will help them throughout their life. Start by posting a calendar at home that shows both your child’s homework assignment deadlines and their afterschool activities (practice, games, performances, etc.). Involve your child in updating the calendar every time a new event or deadline needs to be added.
- Schedule homework time. Set aside designated time for homework each day. Your child already understands the concept of blocking out scheduled time for practice and games. Extend this same concept to homework, where dedicated blocks of time are scheduled in advance throughout the week. Add these time blocks to your calendar and remind your child that they need to fit their homework into these slots in order to participate in all of the fun activities they also have on their calendar.
- Plan proactively. When your child has a full schedule, there is less room wiggle room for cramming in last minute assignments and study sessions. If a big test is coming up at the end of the week, help your child plan ahead and break their test prep down into smaller chucks that they can fit into their pre-scheduled homework time blocks. Planning ahead is a challenge for many kids with ADHD, so your child will need your help to learn this technique. It can be a good idea to get into the habit of helping them check their classroom’s online homework assignment system regularly so they’re less likely to be surprised by an upcoming project deadline or exam.
- Enlist A Tutor. Learning centers are designed to not only provide a place for your child to do their work alongside a qualified support teacher, but to also help teach them study skills that will help them get their work completed more efficiently and effectively. Look for centers, like Huntington Learning Centers, where instructors are experienced in helping kids with ADHD.
- Make participation a privilege that comes with meeting homework goals. Participation in extracurricular activities can be a powerful motivator when participation is linked to reaching homework goals. Let your child know that they can only participate if they consistently complete their homework, and don’t have missed assignments regularly. This can go a long way in helping kids with ADHD prioritize their assignments and cut out distractions when time is short. Note that the goals should be focused on homework completion (effort) rather than homework grades (performance), since kids can generally control whether or not the get their work done, but they can’t always control the grade they receive – and this is especially true for kids with ADHD whose effort isn’t always reflected in their grades.
Balancing school and extracurriculars is more art than science, but it’s worth the time to find a balance that works for your family.