There are some distinct advantages for working parents of children with ADHD, if at least one of them has a job that allows them to work from home. While it will likely be more challenging for a young person with ADHD to learn in a virtual environment, at least parents working in the home can more closely monitor the progress (or regression) of their child's learning experiences vs. parents who must work outside the home. In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to effectively manage working from home alongside a child who is also at home and going to school in a virtual environment.
Take Advantage of Any Flexible Work Options
While working at home already has some built-in flexibility, it's worth asking one's manager if it is possible to adjust your work hours to better meet the needs of your family during the school year. Perhaps your supervisor would allow you to work several hours very early in the morning or late in the evening, thus allowing you to completely focus on work-related issues while your family is still asleep. If both parents are able to work from home, consider setting up a schedule where one parent focuses on their work-related responsibilities for a period of time, while the other parent is more available to children attending virtual school.
Set Up Private Work and Learning Areas
Most people who work from home have at least some type of space they use as an office. This area should be kept separate from your child's learning area. Children with ADHD need their own space without the added distraction of a parent trying to accomplish work-related tasks in the same room. Ideally, a child's learning environment should be separate from their bedroom and/or play area in order to remove as many distractions as possible. Some families may have an extra bedroom in the home that can be turned into a small schoolroom for the duration of the school year.
Communicate Structure to Your Child
Children need to know just because they are learning from home rather than attending a school outside the home, that there will still be plenty of structure within the school day. Parents should be working closely with the teachers and administrators of the school their child attends, in order to determine exactly what that structure will be on a daily basis. Once parents are aware of how their child's teachers will be structuring their daily lessons, they can post a daily schedule for their child to refer to throughout the day. It's also important to communicate what your job responsibilities are in terms of how much and when you will be available to your child. For example, if you consistently cannot be available to your child between the hours of 9am-11am unless it is an emergency, keep a note of your "unavailable" hours near a clock in your child's learning space. Some parents may require more spontaneity regarding when they are available or when they are busy with work. In this case, a parent could employ a visual cue by placing a handkerchief on the door knob of their office to signify they can't be disturbed unless it is an emergency.
Take Activity Breaks Together
Ask your child's teachers if there will be recess breaks at scheduled times and/or if there are a few minutes of downtime between classes. Take advantage of these break times and if you can, take a break as well and go for a walk with your child or schedule some in-house physical activity for the both of you. Try to schedule your lunch break around your child's lunchtime and include some exercise to help burn off any excess energy your child may be experiencing.
Monitoring Your Child
Learning in a completely different environment from their former school poses a significant challenge to a person with ADHD. At least for the first couple of days, parents may want to sit with their child in their new learning environment, to determine what methods are working well and what areas seem to be more of a challenge. It's a good idea for parents to keep notes during this time, so they can work with their child's teachers and administrators in order to arrive at the most effective learning environment for their particular child. As time goes on and everyone becomes more comfortable in their routine, parents may want to consider installing a video camera in their child's learning space, so they can periodically check on their child to ensure their day is going smoothly.
Maintain Family Time
If everyone is at home for most of the day, it may seem like a place where family members only work or go to school. It's important to take an official break from those roles at the end of the day and become a family again. Let your child know that "after school" from virtual learning is just like after school when they were attending their former school. This may mean doing homework while mom or dad is cooking dinner or taking a break from school altogether and going outside to play. Having dinner together is a great way to regroup as family, and it gives everyone a chance to talk about their day, including the pluses and the minuses.
Stay Abreast of Mandated Changes
While it's anyone's guess as to how long the pandemic will affect the learning environment for children, it remains to be seen whether state mandates will require all learning to be virtual or if they will allow at least some type of learning to be done in a regular classroom. It's important to stay abreast of these types of changes and how they will impact your child's learning environment. Parent should remain in frequent communication with their child's educators to discuss the challenges presented by these seemingly continually moving goalposts, as both states and schools struggle to create policies that will keep everyone healthy -- which at times translates into a lack of consistency and structure, making the learning environment for children with ADHD that much more challenging.
If you would like to learn more about how to successfully work at home alongside your child, please contact us.