Advice for parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Last reviewed on 1 August 2021

Children with ADHD can be energetic, inattentive and impulsive to varying degrees. All these behaviours may seem worse when mixed with anxiety, excitement, boredom and change in routine, as any parent and teacher knows. COVID-19 has rapidly brought all these things into our lives.

Social distancing (which applies to children as much as any other age group) and not being able to leave the house as freely as we are used to can be challenging for all of us but even more so for parents of active children.

Supporting your child’s learning at home may be equally demanding for inattentive youngsters. Excitement, anxiety and lack of routine are a perfect storm for stressful family life! So how can you cope?

The advice in this article is to help you think about how to manage your child with ADHD during this challenging time. But before you look at the tips below, make sure you are able to calmly explain and reassure your child about coronavirus. UNICEF provides guidance on how to approach this conversation and you can find the latest official COVID-19 guidance and advice about schools re-opening online.

Useful tips

  1. Find a routine for the day – a mix of learning, fun and play, calm time and meals.
  2. Make a timetable with your child and pop it where everyone can see it. Make it fun – pictures of rainbows are everywhere at the moment so maybe they would like to make a rainbow background on the paper by cutting out paper shapes? Perhaps include a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow week with a treat for agreed behaviours or activities completed?
  3. If your child is on medication for their ADHD, you might find this can be adjusted, especially timings. Ask your prescriber for advice. You may find using shorter acting versions are more flexible than the long acting, if they are not attending school, for instance.
  4. All children have energy. Children with ADHD generally have high energy! Find ways to burn it off with one of the online exercise programmes that are popping up for children. This is something you can enjoy as a family.
  5. Regular times to move around will really help – if you have a garden or balcony, try to do this outside. If not, moving to a different room or playing hide and seek might serve the same purpose.
  6. If you’re helping your child with their schoolwork, don’t expect them to concentrate for long. Short bursts of learning are best. Work out what suits your child. Try using a timer so they can see how long they have left. Make it a fun experience!
  7. Play ‘statues’ – this can help children get used to moving around and then being still.
  8. Allow your child to fidget and fiddle as they need – use a stress ball, play putty, a paperclip or a string of beads. Let them sit on a football or an exercise ball so they can wriggle around.
  9. Keep in touch with other families in the same situation – make use of Skype and other digital channels.

    And finally, but extremely importantly....
  10. Look after yourself! Make sure you have downtime and regular phone, text or email conversations with friends and family.

You can find information about ADHD and mental health on the YoungMinds website and get more advice about managing your and your child’s wellbeing in our parents and carers article. We have also produced advice for children and young people with ADHD and you might find our podcasts with NHS sleep consultant Michael Farquhar (healthy sleep patterns) and headteacher Emma Murray (education in the time of coronavirus) useful.

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