Homework Is Like Riding a Bike
Remember back to when you taught your kiddos to ride a bike? They started with a tricycle, graduated to a two-wheeler with training wheels, and finally started riding on their own. You worked on it together -- so they could learn the skills and confidence they needed to do it on their own. It's the same with homework – metaphorical bumps and bruises and all! ADHD kids have to learn how to “do” school, and there are times when they need extra support. It's okay – it's more than okay – to help them, without doing the work for them.
ADD and ADHD can make it hard to concentrate on schoolwork, and memory challenges can make math calculations, reading, and other fundamentals difficult. How can you give your kids the support they need?
Set the mood!
It is helpful to have a clear time and place for homework. Maybe you gather ‘round the table after soccer practice, or go to a quiet corner of the living room before dinner. Give fair warning that homework time is approaching to help your child with the transition. Some children respond best to a consistent plan, while others do better with variation. Do some ‘testing' to see what works best for your child – and remember it could definitely be different for each of your kids.
Step away from the devices.
Limit stimulation – except from the fascinating material your kids are learning! Turn off TVs, phones, tablets, and computers, except for those required for homework. We're looking at you, Mom or Dad. No checking your email or sneaking in a text if you're helping out with homework. If you are not “actively” helping with an assignment, you can do your own homework, and stay nearby to help keep them on track. If you have a home office, you might even invite your child to join you to help each other stay focused on your homework.
Make it manageable.
Start by reviewing each class and ensuring they understand what needs to be done, as well as the directions for each assignment. Teach your child to estimate how much time each assignment might take, and then determine the order of priority. You might want to take notes to help make this easier for your child to manage. It works well to break up homework time with planned breaks and protein snacks.
Make sure homework makes it back to school.
If the dog doesn't eat the homework, your kid might forget it. Make this your family mantra: “Your homework is not done until it is put away.” Put it in a special homework folder, right back into their backpack, and put the backpack in a consistent place, such as beside the front door. For older children, make sure the homework is put into the proper folder in the class notebook, or emailed to the teacher, as appropriate.
Through all of this, you're coaching your kids. Maybe, at first, you have to put the folder into the backpack. Then, you prompt them. And then, they start doing it on their own. It takes some time, but that's what learning is all about! For your kids - and for you!
If you start to feel like your “help” is becoming a crutch instead of a support, check with the learning specialist at your kid's school, who should have some helpful tips, or post something on our Facebook page to see how other parents handle it. Most importantly, you'll get the support you need to then support your kid. You're not alone in this, though it can feel like you are when you are in a nightly homework battle. We parents could use a set of training wheels at times, too!
The goal is to help your kids work independently. Don't be surprised, though, if it takes your participation to teach them how to do that. It's not enabling them; it is supporting them. And while it's a fine line with ADD/ADHD kids, and a difficult one for parents to walk, it's all the more reason to stay engaged in your child's learning process. That way, you'll be able to trust yourself to know when your help is really needed, and when you can take your hands off the handlebars and let them ride by themselves!