By Interactive Metronome, Bricole Reincke - December 2, 2013
10 Tips to Keep ADHD Children Focused Over the Holidays
1. Make educational tasks exciting, fun and mysterious.
Let’s be honest, keeping any kid focused is a difficult task, not just children with ADHD. Use illustrations, games and special topics to keep children engaged. Turn vocabulary time into a holiday themed game time by creating a scaled reward system and timed rounds, much like a spelling bee. Or, since this time of year plays host to several major sporting events, use football yardage or basketball shots in word problems for children who can stay interested in a game, but not through a whole math lesson. Creating the link between familiar, recreational activities and school subjects is helpful for keeping children interested in “boring, useless, school stuff.”
2. Make learning active.
Many people with ADHD often feel agitated and fidgety after sitting for extending periods of time. Try to incorporate movement into tutoring, even if it only means allowing your child to move around or play with a squeeze toy while completing tasks. Being stuck indoors during holiday break because of inclement weather and shorter daylight hours leaves many children anxious and under stimulated. This physical inactivity can lead to reduced blood flow, reduced oxygen to the brain, higher blood pressure, trouble sleeping and digestive problems. For an adult, dealing with just one of these conditions can sap vital nutrients from the brain, nutrients necessary to sustain focus and attention. Now, imagine dealing with all of them as a child.
3. Make attention part of recreation.
Every opportunity with your child is an opportunity to help them with their ADHD. Many fun activities rely heavily on attention and focus. Simple games like puzzles and word searches are a great way to work on focus and attention, and they are quiet, solitary tasks. Some more group-oriented options include games like “Charades” and “Simon Says,” both of which require sustained attention and adherence to a relatively strict set of rules. In fact, many play activities contain valuable life lessons; it is just a matter of playing the right game. With so many family members around, playing a group game may be a great way to engage and teach children without having to “babysit” them.
4. Games, games, and more games.
Perhaps we haven’t made our point yet. Games work!…especially for children who have difficulty focusing on schoolwork. Do you have a long car trip to a relative’s house? Try a game like “I Spy” to work on attention and decision making while cruising along at 60 miles per hour. Going shopping for last minute gifts or grocery items? Well, have your child come help you find items from a personal shopping list; give them a set amount of time, explain clearly what is expected and make them responsible for family tasks.
5. Reward good behavior and staying on task.
With all this talk of games, surely there must be some type of prize or reward. Yes, good behavior deserves to be rewarded. Rewards can be anything from verbal encouragement to actual gifts. We are not advocating bribery as a means to keep children on tasks, but small, meaningful rewards are a great way to keep kids motivated…at least initially. In time, the behavior should become permanent, while the rewards can taper off. However, no matter how far your child advances, it is important to reinforce good behavior through continued verbal encouragement.
6. Try shorter tasks.
Would you like your child to finish reading a book this holiday break? Maybe finish a large school project that is due around the New Year? Try breaking schoolwork down into several smaller tasks. Would you want to run a marathon all in one day, or 6 km a day for one week? Anyone can become discouraged by seemingly daunting tasks. One math problem may look hard with fifteen more listed below on the page, and one chapter of a book may be hard if ten more follow. So, start with simple, manageable tasks and build up attention and focus over time. Successfully completing a variety of tasks can also help build self-esteem and confidence, which will make tackling more challenging tasks easier.
7. Set aside time for learning.
Setting aside time for schoolwork during holiday break is a great way to keep children focused. A firm time will create expectations for children, just as they are taught to sleep at night, eat three times a day and go to school during weekdays. Thirty minute or hour long sessions also help to break down the work into manageable chunks, which can help eliminate frustration. Seemingly endless tutoring can lead to anxiety and fidgeting as children let their mind wander. Soon, the clock may be the only thing keeping their attention. Instead, put the end in sight and try to get children to focus on the work as a way to pass the time.
8. Set aside space for learning.
You’ve given them a set time; now, give them a place to work. Having an area for schoolwork is essential to success during any time of year, but it is even more important with all of the hustle and bustle around the holidays. Neighborhood parties, family gatherings and long-term guests can wreak havoc on your child’s routine. With all the holiday distractions, maintaining a clean, organized workspace may help clear some of the clutter from their mind. Keep pencils, pens, books and other supplies in their own bin. Label items, or use a color-coding system, and make sure things stay organized. Sometimes, these small things can make a world of difference for children who struggle to maintain attention and focus.
9. Get a good night’s sleep.
Let’s face it, holidays are hectic! Children get excited and may neglect regularly scheduled activities. Try to keep your child’s sleep schedule from fluctuating because of holiday parties, special events and guests. Children may go to sleep late and wake up early because of the added distractions, but lack of sleep will make it harder to resist impulses and maintain focus. Even letting children sleep late into the day can affect impulsivity, mood and attention. So, no matter how much the pillow is calling your name, set an alarm and get moving with your kids.
10. Talk to your children.
Although the easiest to control, this can be the most difficult part of helping your child. Sit down and ask them what will help them focus. Try to communicate regularly about school, friends, sports and other major aspects of your child’s life. Just knowing what is going on with your kids will make it easier to detect an issue and take action before it becomes a problem.
Interactive Metronome® is a great way to keep children engaged and stimulated while working on attention and focus. IM-Home gives children an opportunity to continue IM training outside of the clinic. Now, you can bring the 11 all-new, fun and exciting games into your home. Children will forget that they are learning when they are playing Hoops, Goal, Sammich or Space Invaders. Interactive Metronome® will also get kids up and moving, which helps to burn off extra energy and promotes physical fitness. Give your child the gift of focus this year and they will be asking to do IM for fun before the New Year!