Advice for children and young people with ADHD

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

Many children and young people are feeling anxious about coronavirus (COVID-19) – your normal routine has been disrupted for months and, now that you're back at school, there might be even more changes going on. When you're at home, you might get fidgety and restless but there are lots of things you can do to help you concentrate and burn off some energy.

The Good Thinking team has created these top tips to help you.

1. Talk to your family and friends

You’ll be spending a lot of time at home with your family so it’s important that you tell them how you’re feeling. They will be able to help you with any worries you might have and, if you’re on medication, they can get in touch with your doctor to talk about whether you need to make any adjustments to it. Make sure you don’t make any adjustments without talking to your doctor first.

As lockdown restrictions are changed, you might be able to meet up with a small group of friends or relatives – find out what you can and cannot do on the UK Government website. Even if you can’t see them in person, you can keep in contact by phone, text or video chat (e.g. Skype or FaceTime). You might like to arrange a set time each day when you speak to them.

2. Create a new routine

It might be a good idea to draw up a schedule (a bit like your school timetable) and stick it on the fridge or your bedroom wall so you know what’s happening every day. Include schoolwork and activities you can do in short bursts, like bouncing on a swiss ball or drawing a picture, as well as time for breaks and meals.

Make sure you balance out screen time with other activities and always follow online safety rules. You might find it useful to set a timer so you don’t spend all your time online or on your games console.

BBC Own It has some great advice about structuring your day.

3. Make the most of outdoor time

Think about how you can stay active. How about catching up on #PEWithJoe on YouTube? Dancing around the living room? Or (if you have a garden) doing some gymnastics? As you're now allowed outside more, could you go for walks or bike rides with your family?

4. Learn something new

You don’t have to be at school to learn a new skill. Perhaps you could help to cook dinner, draw something you’ve not drawn before or teach yourself how to juggle. Or why not go on a virtual tour of the Natural History Museum or London Zoo?

Don’t worry if it’s hard to concentrate for long – you can do things in small stages and come back to it later. Give yourself something to fiddle with, like some putty or a squeeze ball, as this often helps with concentration.

5. Get enough sleep

Sleep can be difficult when you have ADHD – your head can buzz with thoughts and your body might feel restless.

It’s always really important that you get the right amount of sleep so stick to your usual bedtime and getting up time.

In the hours before you go to bed, switch off your phone and any other devices so you can wind down. You might also find it helpful to have a bath or listen to some relaxing music before you go to sleep.

Listen to Good Thinking’s podcast with NHS sleep consultant Michael Farquhar.

6. Be kind to yourself

We know it's not easy when your usual routine isn't possible. It’s OK to not be OK. Just make sure you don’t bottle things up – talk to your family about how you’re feeling. You might also find relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, useful.

This article by The Scouts contains advice on self-care.

7. Understand that this is a difficult time for everyone

If your mum, dad or carer is still going out to work or they are working from home and juggling schoolwork and childcare, it might be stressful for them. Your siblings might also be struggling with being off school and not seeing their friends. You might find that everyone is a little less patient than usual – this isn’t your fault, it’s because of the current coronavirus situation and it will pass.

8. Get help if you need it

You can find information about ADHD and mental health and a blog by a 10-year-old with ADHD on the YoungMinds website. You might also find this ‘ADHD and me’ cartoon useful.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’d like to talk to someone you don’t know, call Childline on 0800 1111 or contact YoungMinds Crisis Messenger (text YM to 85258).

Read our advice for children and young people, which contains more wellbeing tips and ideas for fun things to do at home. If you receive professional support or counselling, read our guidance about possible changes to support during lockdown.