Creating Structure During Isolation: tips for supporting children at home.
Children with hyperactivity often struggle with self-control and executive functioning skills. This is especially hard to manage when you remove structured environments, like school and extra-curricular activities. Whilst you can’t replicate school in your own home, there are several things you can do to help your child thrive.
- Co-construct goals with your children. Together, look at what needs to be accomplished during the week, this might be academic work, projects, chores, and play time. It is important to set aside time for children to have unstructured play.
- Breakdown goals into smaller tasks. Set realistic due dates or timeframes. For example, if the end goal was to have a tidy bedroom by Friday, you can dedicate 30 minutes each day focusing on a specific area of the bedroom to tidy. Breaking the end goal down into smaller tasks and keeping it within a certain timeframe, will encourage children to focus on the task at hand.
- Create a visual timetable so they can see what is happening each day.
- Be flexible. Many things can affect children’s behavior, mood, and ability to focus. Say you have agreed to one hour of math practice in the morning. However, the night before, they didn’t get enough sleep and you can tell they are really struggling to concentrate. You can say “I notice you are really struggling to concentrate this morning because you went to bed really late last night. Let’s finish the next two problems then we will take a break and continue with it afterwards.” Instead of persisting and possibly entering into a power struggle, revisit the timetable and adjust. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child essential skills, such as, compromise and prioritization.
- Use support tools. These days many schools have lots of resources to help children with different needs. These could be weighted blankets, elastic bands on chairs, or other fidget toys. Most likely, you would have had a discussion with the teacher or learning support coordinator about what resources are helpful for your child’s learning. Ask if you can borrow these tools, if not, there are many websites where you can purchase them at a reasonable price. Be sure to set clear guidelines on using support tools though, for example the weighted blanket can only cover your lap when you are doing work.
- Take brain breaks. This could be lying down, listening to some music, going for a walk, or having a snack. What you don’t want is to stimulate the brain by watching television or playing a game on the iPad. Save those activities for their free time.
Elvynia Tseng is an advocate for improving education, mental health, and wellbeing for children and adolescents, with a special interest in
the experiences of refugee children. She has an MA in Bilingual School Counseling from New York University, and an MA in International Child
Studies from King’s College London. She currently works as a Year 5 teacher and pastoral care coordinator at an IB school in Wellington, New Zealand.
Creating Structure During Isolation: tips for supporting children with hyperactivity at home