The Stress of COVID-19 on Children with ADHD

May 24, 2021

ADHD SymptomsOutside of a raging global pandemic, plenty of children around the world already exhibit behaviors that seem difficult to manage. Now with COVID-19 changing their routines in therapy and learning, kids with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have more to deal with in areas of hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and similar symptoms. 

COVID-19 Stress and ADHD Symptoms

Children with ADHD struggle not only with attention symptoms but also with executive function skills, namely organizing which tasks to start first, managing, finishing, and keeping track of tools for it. 

Potentially increasing a child’s ADHD symptoms are varying routines and schedules, whether they are at home or in school. These behaviors often signal a child having stress, affecting learning and development, focus on tasks and remembering, as well as behaving properly, e.g., appearing restless or struggling to stay calm. 

During the global pandemic, it is crucial to keep in mind that a child with ADHD is not getting easily distract, being disorganized, or uncooperative on purpose. Parents should definitely expect more behavioral issues during this time of added stress. 

Some Helpful Tips to Keep the Child Focused

Here are some ways that you can play on your child’s strengths during the pandemic and manage a unique time like the pandemic. 

  1. Establish a clear routine. This involves setting clear and age-appropriate rules and expectations within this routine, such as what times of the day or night are for learning-related or personal discovery tasks or activities. 
  2. Seek social support. In recognizing the increased stress at this time and aiming to address it, seek support from teachers, pediatricians, or counselors who know your child quite well and can connect you with useful resources for parents of children with ADHD.
  3. Does your child have an Individualized Education Program (IEP)? If yes, continue having a written plan for support, such as for speech therapy or customized reading instruction. This way, learning can be supported, accommodated, and modified as needed.
  4. Give your children the gift of choice. Let the student choose the best time of learning for them, specifically if they are in remote learning. The child may also create a visual schedule or checklist of tasks, promoting interest and willingness to work with an updated plan. 
  5. Promote positive attention. This puts the attention on the child’s efforts and positive attributes, versus specific, rash feedback on their impulse control issues. A specific “Great job on your reading homework!” hits differently from a generic “Good job” uttered from a different room in the house.
  6. Clear the workspace. For kids having trouble focusing, having a clean, distraction-free workspace enables them to get into a mindset ripe for concentration. A neat, functional dedicated workspace can get and keep them engaged during remote learning engagement, particularly if their days are filled with Zoom sessions and homework.
  7. Consider learning bursts and offer free time. Instead of having a highly structured school day in mind, think in terms of learning bursts, which according to research helps children truly focus and work effectively for about 45 minutes at the most. 

You might hear about this as “chunking,” or engaging children for a period of time that works realistically with their attention span and promotes breaks. Take note that kids and adolescents with ADHD greatly benefit from free play breaks, which then help use their brains in various ways and build a set of skills. 

  1. Be present. Deliver to your promise of moments of undivided attention to the child. They rely on it and recognize boundaries when they are there. 
  2. Provide strong nutritional support. Nutritional aids like nootropics, a balanced diet,regular exercise routine, and other interventions give children with ADHD a good foundation for enhancing their focus, intelligence, memory, creativity, and motivation. 

Remember that many students, not just those with ADHD or special needs, have difficulty acquiring new information during stressful times. They might need to go through the same material over and over again. They might also require more hands-on supervision. Provide a reasonable amount of added support as a parent and don’t forget to breathe! Your child needs you now more than ever, so recognizing the challenge early on and making small yet meaningful steps matter. 

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