Use Your ADHD Super Powers and Get More Done!

ADHD Super PowersJanuary 1st is meant to encourage thoughts of possibilities but it can also be a reminder of the previous year’s disappointments. For 2024, let’s make a deal, there’s enough negativity in the world, let’s focus on the positive this year. Are you in?

It’s time to embrace our neurodiversity and use our strengths to get things done. Every January there are numerous resolution strategies offered to make this your “best year ever”. Strategies such as having a word, theme, or intention for the year are plentiful. Setting SMART goals and breaking them down into small action steps may work for some, but the statistics say differently. Many people give up within two weeks of the new year. Here’s a clip from npr.org for reasons why.

This year though, let’s try to make small improvements using our ADHD Super Powers such as: being creative and thinking outside the box, being a problem solver, having high energy and being able to pivot when necessary. Also, let’s not forget the ability to hyperfocus.

If the goal is to “get the right things done,” then let’s see how the ADHD Super Powers can help.

Super Power: You are creative:

Your ideas are innovative, often more involved than they need to be, but still creative and you often come up with non-traditional solutions that can solve problems. Watch for places where a creative solution could save you time and energy and fix it when you can. For example:

    • If you have been procrastinating on a task, add some creativity to it, gamify it, break it down into teeny, tiny doable steps to easily cross off or work on it with a friend.
    • Make it a game with the family to race around and put things away so you start each day fresh
    • Dislike using a traditional planner, then create your own system by making it work for you and the way you think.

Super Power: You have high energy:

Your energy level is often directly related to your level of motivation and of course the basics like sleep and self-care. If you find yourself with lots of energy to spare:

    • Knocking off several mini tasks will keep the dopamine level up and that makes everything easier.
    • Be sure to have a list to look at filled with those mini tasks so you don’t have to try and think of them in the moment.
    • Keep track of all you do accomplish – it’s much better to focus on what did get done rather than what didn’t.

Super Power: You can pivot quickly and change course or task:

If something more urgent comes up you are able to change gears and quickly dive into it. You are often multi-tasking and that means you are only using 50% of your brain (because you are actually switching from one task to the other and back) but you can assess what is needed and get on it. If you do have to pivot:

    • Be sure to leave yourself a note of where to pick up on the current project, before you jump to the urgent one.
    • You are able to find ways to make things easier and are open to unexpected solutions
    • Life happens – when the unexpected happens, being able to easily pivot can provide other options and solutions minimizing the disruptions.

Super Power: You can Hyperfocus:

Hyperfocus is the ability to sustain attention and focus on the task at hand until it is complete. This often entails either high interest on your part, a looming deadline, or urgency from someone else. It does use up a lot of brain power so be careful how often you use it.

    • You have the ability to deep dive into a project or area of interest so set a timer or reminder notification before beginning so you don’t miss something else.
    • Use hyperfocus to develop the skills needed for a new hobby or a side hustle.
    • The increase in focus can lead to more creative solutions and an increase in attention to details that may not happen with frequent interruptions. Let others around you know that you don’t want to be interrupted.

A change in perspective is needed if you feel that your ADHD is the reason you “can’t” get things done, are always late or forget things. Use your ADHD superpowers to come up with creative strategies and solutions for those challenges and add some fun into each day. What do you want to remember 2024 for? What do you need to do to make that a reality? Use your super powers:-)

Secrets to Helping Kids with ADHD

ADHD, is it a superpower or kryptonite at home or at school? The truth is, it is probably both depending on the situation. All students want to learn, they often feel a great deal of pressure to “learn” and be able to show that learning when it is called for. How can you help your child learn to use their ADHD as a superpower and minimize the effects of kryptonite? Here are three ways to ensure better outcomes.

ADHD and the Brain

    1. Understand that ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain. That means that without enough dopamine and other neurotransmitter chemicals, messages are disrupted on their way from one side of the brain to the other. When everything is working the messages make it, but often they make it half way or more likely, they vanish – sometimes temporarily and other times, without a trace – forgotten.

Probable causes: interruptions, distractions or brain and body are trying to make their needs known. Working memory is responsible for holding onto all the information we need at the time to complete a task or solve a problem. When it is working at capacity and something or someone interrupts, something has to go. Sometimes it is easy to get it back and other times, your child has to start back at the beginning adding more time and stress to whatever they were doing.

When an ADHD brain is hungry, thirsty, tired or fidgety, it is best to stop and give it what it needs. The brain is always monitoring and sends out signals to get noticed until the problem is resolved.

Suggestions: Make sure your child or teen gets enough sleep, eats healthy, is active and has a snack with protein before beginning homework. Praise their effort. Remove distractions that you can and save your questions for later.

2. Impulsivity is often a kryptonite side effect of ADHD. It is like the pause button is broken, or that little voice in your head that warns you before you get in trouble or hurt, is asleep. I have also heard that it is a way the brain seeks out more stimulus because it is feeling like it doesn’t have enough. Impulse control is an executive function that isn’t fully developed until age 25, yet we ask children to control it long before then. Whatever the reasons, kids need a way to help themselves before they get in trouble.

Suggestions: One way to separate the impulsivity from the child is to call it something. Give it a name that you can refer to that separates it from your child’s sense of self. (Ex. The Cracken, Kevin (from the movie UP, Wacko Willy, etc.) Use humor when they show up and discuss what else Wacko Willy might have done instead.

Set clear expectations on behaviors before going somewhere. Make sure your child has a fidget in their pocket and use this 3-step model taken from Sarah Ward called: Stop, Think, Act.

When you notice emotions are building up, your child needs to: Stop (Take a few breaths, walk away, go outside, or chill in their room). Then have them think what started that, or what happened right before they got upset? Now, problem solve and brainstorm ideas that are more appropriate and use them to act next time.

3. Motivation is a challenge. An ADHD brain struggles with tasks that are boring, complex or difficult. If you are trying to motivate your child to complete something that falls under one of those categories, it may be as frustrating for you as it is for them. No one wants to mess up but, often those with ADHD are seen as messing up more often than their peers. The most common ways teachers and parents try to motivate is to take-away privileges. Or promising rewards so far in the future that the child feels they will never get it anyway. Rewards or punishments have little effect other than making children feel “bad” about themselves. This causes the brain to become stressed and a stressed brain cannot think clearly. That seems like a no-win situation.

Suggestions: According to Additude Magazine, “When you praise your child, it creates dopamine — the neurotransmitter his or her brain lacks, which causes the ADHD symptoms — and the dopamine helps to better control behavior. So, he or she can do more wonderful tomorrow.”  Increase the positive/negative ratio as it takes 3-5 positives to outweigh 1 negative.

Learning happens when students are willing to learn, and have strategies that work for them. However, most important is that they feel good about themselves. So, use lots of praise (about their effort), humor and help them understand how they learn best. If school is a positive experience, then their superpower may one day make the world a better place.

Want to learn more strategies to help your child or teen succeed with ADHD? Then join our next Thriving with ADHD in the Family Parent Class.

School’s Out – Preventing the Summer Slide

metacognition and the summer slideTeachers talk about the summer slide all the time. That downhill slope that learning often takes during the summer months. We all lose some level of skill when we don’t keep using it. For students, the summer slide can set them back a month or more having to review what they have already learned.

Now, I am not talking about the facts they have memorized, but the process of being able to figure things out through understanding themselves and problem solving. In other words, thinking about how they think or metacognition. This is the real skill they need when it comes to learning.

So, what you can you do this summer to help minimize that summer slide?

              • Keep them reading. Find books that they are interested in (not just the ones on their summer reading list) and set aside some time each day for reading. After lunch, after dinner or before bed are great times and even better if you are able to read at that time too. Don’t forget to ask them about what they have read.
              • Going to camp or on outings? Let your children plan what they need, figure out the route or buy the snacks. Any way that you can get them thinking about how to approach the task of being ready is helpful. What have they done in the past that is similar to this and how can that help?
              • Take a walk in the woods, go geocaching, identify birds, flowers, rocks and trees. Get outside and play. Visit the tourist sites near you. What will they be studying next year? Is there an historic site that relates? Take in a museum or zoo.
              • Teach and/or reinforce skills through baking snacks, helping with meal prep, doing their own laundry, organizing their room, and/or writing a grocery list or their daily plan. Create a menu of fun activities they want to do. It is easier to check the menu than to come up with something to do in the moment. Do they want to learn something new or improve a skill?
              • Weekly (or more) game night. Play games that use math and reading but also keeps their “playing with others” skills active. Building with legos – have a competition. Puzzles too.
              • Keep some structure in their day. Kids thrive when they know what to expect. Having morning, mid day and evening routines can break up the day and make it easier for them to switch activities or come up with new ones. Try a 30 minute “quiet time” after lunch. It works great if you want to swim after lunch but really should wait a bit. It’s a great time for reading, doing puzzles, word searches, or reinforcing weak skills through activities (although I am not a fan of the worksheets), things like math war, or memory games and even flashcards help.

Learning is a process and it takes time. So, start small and scaffold things where you start with lots of help and then less help as they become more capable. Focus on the process of learning and not the outcome. Keep a growth mindset in mind where they are capable with effort even if they can’t do it “yet.” Allow choices it fosters ownership. Reflecting on what they have done leads to metacognition so be sure to use some of their successes to remind them when they are struggling.

Lastly, and most importantly, it is so easy to supply solutions to children’s statements and complaints like: “I’m hungry” or “Where is my bike”, or “I’m bored,” but when you do, you take away the opportunity to develop problem solving skills and encourage independence. (Also developing agency).

Encouraging your children to problem solve with your help and building on their confidence develops agency. Isn’t the goal to raise lifelong, independent learners with the confidence to handle anything? And, it can be fun!

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Developing Agency Leads to Independence

Celebrating agency up high on a mountainThe word “agency” keeps popping up in articles I read or podcasts I listen to so I thought I would look a bit deeper into it. Hope you find it helpful.

Agency is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the ability to take action or to choose what action to take.” It is the belief that you have control over your choices and can affect change through the choices you make. How often do you feel that you have an impact on your life through the decisions and choices you make? So, what is agency?

Without Agency

  • Unclear goals
  • Emotions drive beliefs (whether true or not)
  • Indecision
  • Fear of Failure
  • Lack of confidence in your abilities

With Agency

  • Growth mindset (you believe you can do it, maybe just not “yet”)
  • Metacognition (you think about your thinking)
  • See learning as a process and yourself as a learner
  • Self-efficacy (belief in your abilities)
  • Ask open ended questions to problem solve

Agency isn’t just important for adults, but also for children to develop. Students have been through a lot of changes over the last three years and most of them adapted quite well. Some did not do well with the challenges and the constant changes. What do you think makes the difference, between a student who is resilient and adapts quickly and those that become more needy and less capable? Is it fear of failure, lack of confidence, or learned helplessness that interferes with a child’s development of agency?

Opportunities to problem solve and figure out what steps to take next have been replaced with the answers and solutions in order to save time (Ex. Study guides instead of study skills). Think about it, when was the last time your child came to you with a problem and you told them what to do? You may have missed an opportunity to help them develop agency and confidence in their own abilities.

I was surprised to read this article that discussed the increase in a child’s anxieties when you constantly solve their problems for them or make accommodations to diminish their fears. This line jumped out at me. “Kids look to their parents to see who they are, Dr. Leibowitz notes. So, when parents reflect back to them that they are helpless in the face of anxiety, and need to be protected, that’s what kids learn to feel about themselves.” That goes for problem solving too. They question their own abilities and instead rely on a parent or teacher to “save” them.

Learning is a Process

  • It takes time
  • Start small and scaffold with help
  • Focus on the process not the outcome
  • Allow choices – develops ownership
  • Self-reflection leads to metacognition
  • Growth mindset (capable with effort)
  • Leads to self-efficacy (belief in your abilities)
  • Which then leads to agency – knowing you can impact your life through the decisions and choices you make

Encouraging your children to problem solve with your help and building on their confidence develops agency. Isn’t the goal to raise lifelong learners with the confidence to handle anything that comes their way (depending on age of course)?

As an adult, you know yourself best and should keep that in mind when solving a problem or developing a strategy that will work for the way you think. We can’t always predict what success will look like so designing an “experiment” gives an opportunity to try things out without fear of failure. Make sure to think about what could get in the way of your success. Thinking about possible obstacles and then creating a plan for them, helps ensure greater success of your experiment. Each experiment provides more data (more clues as to what will work) even if you don’t get there on the first try.

Each experiment whether successful or not helps you learn more about who you are and who you want to be. It builds on your strengths and helps you find strategies you can use in other instances. This builds your “toolbox” that you can use in other situations. In the end, we don’t set the goals or do the tasks for the “fun” of crossing them off the list, we do them to show ourselves we are capable and in control of ourselves and our actions – and that develops agency.

If you’d like to learn more about helping your children develop agency, then join our Thriving with ADHD in the Family Parent Class starting Thursday, April 27th, 2023 at 7pm ET via Zoom.

“I’m Bored!” – Now What?

Working togetherProblem solving skills. We use them all the time at work, school, home and in social situations. They help us locate our keys, or solve a problem at work. For kids, they help them learn and think on their own without waiting to be told what to do.

The definition, according to Merriam Webster, is “the process or act of finding a solution to a problem.” When bosses, teachers and parents provide the next steps to solving a problem, then there is no true problem-solving practice. Without practice, our “solutions” can be anything from an impulsive response, to paralysis, where we do nothing and the problem is never solved or there are consequences that were never contemplated. Do you want to be able to trust that your children can make the right decisions when it comes to problem solving?

It can make for a long summer if you often hear, “I’m bored,” “I’m hungry” or, “Where are my shoes” and then your child or teen waits for you to suggest what they should do next. Often in our rush to get the kids to do what they need to do; we simply tell them what to do rather than having them think about it and figure it out for themselves. Have you supplied the snack or told your child where to locate their shoes recently? Providing an “instant” solution rather than allowing your child or teen to solve it themselves can create a dependency that delays their journey towards independence.

Problem solving skills are important in simple decisions we make every day. Our children are faced with a variety of challenges throughout their day, in school and out. Without the ability to come up with options, children may choose to avoid situations which can make things worse.

How to encourage problem solving:

      •     Use humor for example, “Hello, hungry, I’m Mom.”
      •     Ask an open-ended question, “I wonder where I would be if I were a shoe?”
      •     Identify the actual problem
      •     Suggest you brainstorm possible solutions together and then discuss pros and cons of each
      •     Allow your child to pick a solution and see what happens

Five Advantages to Developing Strong Problem-Solving Skills

1.  Problem Solve to Avoid Boredom

When children are home during the summer, there is often unstructured time even if they are off to camp programs. Switching from a structured program to non-structured can sometimes be overwhelming. With so many choices they can have difficulty making a decision. Sometimes it is difficult for children to decide what to do in the moment. Creating a “menu” of choices together can help inspire them without having you run through their choices. Coming up with the ideas is often the stumbling block – even for adults, so having a ready made “menu” avoids that challenge.

2.   How to prevent the problem from happening again

Once your child has solved a problem, make sure they understand what made that such a challenge and ask what they can do to prevent it from happening again. This can range from the basic, put your shoes in the same spot every day to remembering to be a thoughtful listener when their friends are talking. Discussing social situations before and/or after can help your child practice those “being a good friend” skills of listening, negotiating, taking turns, playing fair, etc.

3.   Natural consequences

Let them make their own decision whether you agree with it or not and allow for natural consequences to happen (as long as they are safe). This opens the door for a discussion on other things they might want to consider next time. What did they forget about? Cause and effect skills develop from comparing the pros and cons.

4.   Build Independence Skills

Creating routines, making sure there are routines and structure at home that children can depend on. Children need to trust that certain things will happen regularly. It is important they understand they are part of a team and should also be expected to contribute to daily life at home.

Help them learn how to solve problems and/or build skills. Ask what they would do and why to help brainstorm solutions and strategies. Discussing the pros and cons of each can then lead to better decisions being made.

Build positive self-talk and let them hear you problem solve by voicing your thoughts out loud to role model the process.

5.   Self confidence

When kids succeed be sure to praise their effort and not just a generalized compliment that praises something they cannot control (intelligence, looks, etc.). Encourage a growth mindset attitude that emphasizes the effort and encourages perseverance to attain the goal, rather than the goal itself. As they see how effective they are, they will become more self-confident.

Failure is part of the learning process – as the song says, “nobody learns without getting it wrong.” So, let your kids, “try everything” and see what happens.

Everyone benefits from working on and encouraging problem solving skills. It’s simple, according to verywellfamily.com, once you identify the problem, then brainstorm several options, nothing is off limits. Now, go back through those options and identify the pros and cons. Pick a solution that looks good and try it out. Is it a success or do you need to try another solution? More practice, the better the skills.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

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Is it a Routine or a Struggle?

Routines not struggleThere are numerous theories about how the brain works, but what I have come to believe is that we can think of the brain as having three parts or personalities. They are the “robot”, the “Yoda” and the “monkey” brain.

The monkey brain is the emotional part of the brain, it is what happens when our self-control is gone and our emotions take control.  It is the brain that doesn’t think before acting and is often full of movement and impulsivity.

The Yoda brain is the brain we use for learning and making decisions (when emotions are not involved), it is the rational, thinking brain.

And lastly, the robot brain is the brain that controls our habits and routines. It is preprogrammed to do things automatically with little or no thought involved. The robot brain does not create habits on its own, especially if ADHD is involved. It takes training and practicing and often some tweaking before a set of actions can become a habit. Once there is a habit, the brain can relax and just follow through the motions without having to use up its decision-making energy.

Routines that use the “robot” brain can save you time and brain energy. When a habit or series of steps becomes automatic, you no longer have to think about what to do next. You probably already have several routines that you do each day.

ROUTINES

  • Does your morning start the same way each day?
  • How about your evening, does it have a routine?
  • Does your work day have a routine?
  • Bill paying?
  • Dinner routine?
  • Tax routine (Quarterly taxes or April 15)
  • Laundry routine?
  • Weekly reset routine?
  • Planning routine for the week?

You get the idea. There are plenty of opportunities to create a routine that helps you get through your day without using up valuable brain bandwidth.

Where Could You Use A Routine to Save Time and Energy?

  • Are you frequently late for work or appointments?
  • Do you need to get groceries before you can cook dinner?
  • Have you ever missed a bill payment or paid a late fee?
  • Is your home cluttered and/or disorganized?

If you answered “yes” to even one of the questions above, then a routine can help.

Create a Routine

First, pick a problem to solve. Why is that a problem? Now, think about what it would be like if that was no longer a problem. How would your life be different?

Next, pick three steps (yes, just three) that you think are important for this new routine you are creating. It may not be the entire routine, but it is the 3 most basic steps to get you started. Now close your eyes and run through those steps in your mind. Does it flow smoothly or should you do the steps in a different order?

An ADHD brain can struggle to remember the order of steps which makes each day a new pattern. This doesn’t help create a routine and actually uses MORE brain power and decision-making energy. The idea of the routine is that when it is automatic, you are saving brain power and energy because there is no thinking involved.

Finally, find the order of steps that works best and “practice” doing it until it becomes a habit. Then you can slowly add more steps to the routine, making sure it works for you and the way you think.

It has been suggested that linking a new habit with an already established habit can make an effective “trigger” to start the new habit. Is there something you already do that you can link this new routine to?

Once you feel the first routine is working you can either expand it (although don’t make it complicated) or you can start to develop another routine to help yourself solve another challenge.

Habits are tricky things but once they are established – the benefits far outweigh the struggle at the beginning. Keep at it. We are here if you would like some coaching to help you design and navigate establishing new habits and routines.

Planning for the ADHD Brain

There once was a Mama Bear who felt like she was part “day planner, authoritarian, and task master.” Every day she would go through the calendar and the to do list. She would gently remind the little bears what activities they had or what they needed to “get done” and also prompt the Papa Bear of what he needed to remember too. Often the Mama Bear would mention a task or problem that needed fixing, and unless it was urgent, or Papa Bear had free time at that moment….it often went undone. This continued for years until the Mama Bear realized she was doing all the remembering and everyone was depending on her to think for them and still things were not getting done.
So, Mama Bear, being the “organized” one decided to teach the big bear and the little bears how to plan for themselves.
Here’s what I learned from her:
            • Create a list of all the tasks you want/need to remember. Often our brain will wake us up in the middle of the night because it doesn’t want us to forget something. Often, we think we will remember in the morning, but we don’t. List everything you can think of. Yes, I know it can be overwhelming, but your brain is trying to hold onto all of it anyway so, why not help it. This is commonly called a “brain dump.” Don’t let the undone to do’s keep you up.
            • Put everything on it, even that project you “hope” to get to someday but make sure that it is in the form of the smallest action you can take. Redo the dining room is too big of a project, so you should write down the steps that are involved. (Helpful apps: color noteEvernoteTrellotodoist, etc.)
            • Write down any deadlines or due dates and be sure to highlight those things that need to be done in the current month.
            • Estimate how long those things will take – be realistic.
            • Pick the three top things you want or must do tomorrow
            • Now either add them into your calendar or set aside a “block” of time (preferably each day) that you will tackle those tasks.
            •  Create a planning habit where you look ahead at your week, add in any appointments and then pick 3 tasks off of this master list. Don’t cross them off your master to do list unless you ACTUALLY complete them. Don’t add more than 3. When you do complete them you can go for more but 3 is a successful day.
            • Celebrate your successes. Remember you will always have a list – just make sure it has what is important to you. Life will get in the way….so start each day fresh and don’t carry things over from the previous day unless you really have to.
            • Pick the important things to do and not the “easy” things if you want to really work your plan and not just engage in “Procrastivity”.
Papa Bear now has his own master list, and he and Mama Bear discuss the upcoming week (and the to dos) each Sunday over breakfast. And that makes Mama Bear very happy:-)
If you struggle with task management and completion, give coaching a try. You guide the process. Baby steps in the right direction will still get you there. Good luck!
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Where Oh Where Is My Motivation?

Motivation is that “intangible thing” that drives us to do something willingly. I’m sure you have felt it when you get into a project and the time flies by and you are making great progress. You may also have experienced motivation’s evil twin “procrastination.” That’s when no matter how hard you try you cannot seem to make progress. It is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, frustration, stress and anger.

Motivation has been defined as the purpose one has for taking action. It can be an internal or external push but many people believe that you either have motivation or you don’t. What do you think? On a scale from 1-10 how would you rate your level of motivation for the next “to-do” item on your list?

If you don’t have it, then what can you do to get it? It is not like you can order it or buy it at your local motivation store – although that would be sweet. No, you have to dig deep or figure out some strategies that will work for you. Everyone has to find what motivates them but there are some strategies that everyone can benefit from.

Know Your Big Why

“Motivation is a set of habits and routines, guided by your values and your identity, that you carry out every day.” “When you combine purpose, energy and small simple steps, you get sustainable motivation.” says Jim Kwik, author of Limitless (the book I am currently reading).

It seems that knowing your purpose or your big WHY for doing “x” plays a big role in your motivation. If you don’t know why you are doing something or it is not important to you, then it is no surprise that you cannot get motivated to do it. I am thinking of all the students that get “busy” work to fill their time without ever being given the reasoning behind the work. No wonder it is so challenging for students to do homework.

Once you understand the purpose (your purpose) for doing the task then Jim Kwik talks about managing your energy. It is easier to be motivated if you are feeling your best – but what does that entail? Kwik talks about…

  • the 10 healthiest foods for your brain
  • the importance of sleep, water and exercise
  • controlling those automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that tend to sneak in when things aren’t going well.

When you are motivated – extremely motivated, it is often referred to as being in “flow.”

Find Your Edge

Another author, James Clear (of Atomic Habits fame) also mentions that whatever you are working on needs to provide a certain amount of challenge – but not too much. He refers to the Goldilocks rule this way, “humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities – not too hard, not too easy, just right. Now look at what you are trying to do, is it within that range?

Make sure that you are not losing motivation because you are looking at a “project” with multiple steps vs. just the next step in the process. The smaller the step, the more likely you will be motivated to do it. James Clear also suggests that you schedule when you will work on it because you are more likely to work on something that has been scheduled rather than waiting until you feel motivated to work on it. Waiting for that feeling – rarely happens but you can help encourage motivation by setting up a routine that tells your brain it is time to get working on “x”. Clear calls it a “pregame routine” where it starts a series of motions that are simple to do but moves you in the direction of actually working on whatever it is. It’s a bit like Newton’s law of a body in motion stays in motion. So, once you get moving on it, make sure you are getting some feedback about the progress you are making. Look for successes in the smallest bits of progress so that you can feel good about the action you are taking. This will help feed your brain the dopamine it craves to keep working.

Motivation then becomes more about something you DO, rather than something you need to FIND. It’s not missing – you had the power within you all the time Dorothy.

Hey Students! Organize Yourself for the New Learning Environment (Whether it is Remote, Hybrid, In Person, or Combined)

Back to schoolThere is so much to think about as the new school year begins. With the pandemic continuing, each town has devised its own plan for what “school” will look like this fall. For some that may include half or full days, or a combination of two days in school and three remote or every other day or every other week. So many options, I cannot begin to cover them all. However, many of the schools are starting two weeks later than usual. Don’t let that fool you. It’s time to get organized! Where to begin?

The toughest part of any hybrid learning model is going to be staying organized. There are in person assignments to organize and remote work as well. Fluctuating schedules to keep track of, technology to keep charged and log in information to organize. Then of course there is organizing oneself for this new method of learning. Whew!

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Where will you work? You want to have one place to work where you have all the supplies and space you need. It needs to be comfortable, but not too comfy. Make sure the lighting is good and that you are not working in your own shadow. Get a comfortable chair where your feet can touch the floor. Keep it distraction free – but hang photos that make you feel good. How will you keep track of everything? Do you use your phone or a paper planner, or sticky notes? The best one, is the one that works for you. Make it a habit to put everything in it though, so nothing can fall through the cracks.

Next organize your technology. Make sure you have all the log in information for the websites you need to log onto and the password information. Set up folders for each subject on your device. Create a reminder for turning assignments in as that is often a step that can easily get missed. If you have a way to track what is passed in, then if it “gets lost” you have proof. Move the chargers to your new space so that your equipment does not have to be moved to be charged. Turn notifications off by putting privacy settings on while you are doing your homework. You can spend all night working or you can get it done effectively and have some well-deserved downtime for yourself. Which would you rather do?

Now your materials will need to include hand sanitizer and masks as well as all the standard stuff. Chances are you will have less paper to keep track of this year so why not go with a small notebook or binder that has room for all your classes. If you keep it cleaned out of the completed topics you should easily be able to fit a full term’s worth of papers in a 1- or 11/2-inch notebook. That should hold between 200 and 300 pages. That does include the necessary weekly clean out of papers no longer needed. Maintaining your supplies is important too. You may need reminders to carry a spare mask or two with you or weekly refilling of your hand sanitizer and a disinfecting spray of the backpack and wipe down of your tech.

To organize yourself, may end up being the most challenging part of this school year. You have an obligation to yourself and your family to do your best to stay healthy. That requires regular health habits including sleep which can be difficult for teens. It will mean keeping your materials clean and switching out your mask daily. Students need to find time to be active, whether it is playing a sport or shooting hoops in the driveway, something that keeps those synapses happy.

You will need to realize that this is probably not the way your teacher had hoped the year would start out either. Teachers are working extra hard to juggle all the pieces of the hybrid plan and have to be flexible enough to adapt if things should change. They have families too and may not be as available as they would normally be for providing extra support. You will need to take that responsibility on yourself. Make sure that you understand the concepts that are being presented and don’t wait to discover you did poorly on the exam before looking for help. Can you explain the key points of the topic to yourself? Then spend time studying what you DON’T know. Take good notes in case you need to use them to teach yourself.

How much time do you spend doing your homework? If you allow distractions to interrupt you, you are taking away from your focus and adding about 20 minutes more to your work time to regain that level of focus. Take short breaks in between assignments and give your brain some nourishment and process time. It will thank you by working more efficiently – saving you time and energy in the end. Also take five minutes to put everything back where it belongs when you are done working.

Good luck, stay healthy and stop the spread by doing your part. This will be a year unlike any other!

The “Next” Normal of Learning

As if the daily struggle with homework was not enough stress, now you are being asked to help your child learn online and complete work via a screen. How are you and your children adjusting to this “online learning?”

There are only a few weeks left, but do you feel that your child has really “learned” how to learn for themselves remotely? It is not necessarily about the content but have they learned to be a self-directed learner or are you guiding them throughout each day?

All brains may struggle with this new way of doing things. However, an ADHD brain may struggle with the new way of learning, and the different “schedule”, the distractions at home, the challenge of not being able to ask the teacher whatever pops into their heads and the sitting in one place for longer periods of time. All this can make 30 minutes of work take 3 hours instead. Parents can become frustrated at the amount of time and coercing this work can take. Please remember your relationship with your child is the number one priority. Don’t let the pressure of getting the work done interfere with your relationship. This is new for them too.

Next Normal: Learning

  1. Start with making a “work” zone. A place where your child can set up the iPad or laptop and has space to work if needed. Clutter increases distraction and can interrupt their focus. Make it a calm, clear space for work that has the tools they will need within reach. Put a clock or timer nearby so they can see how much time they have to finish. (If you give them all day, it will take all day. Set a limit.) Setting kids up on their beds is NOT recommended, it gives the body the wrong idea but give them the option to stand up while they work may help some kids focus easier. See what works for your child. If they choose to sit, be sure their feet touch the floor or put a box under them so they’re legs are not dangling.
  2. Remember this is a new way of learning for your kids. They are essentially being asked to teach themselves without the same type of interaction they would have in school. It is pass/fail for this term so let them do their best and leave it at that. It does not help the teacher to know where your child might need more help, if you are making them correct all their errors before turning things in. Find ways to make it fun, and pay attention to what kinds of things seem to be difficult for your child. Work together to find other ways they can learn. The summer will be a great time to reinforce their weaker skills but for now, help them get through this new experience.
  3. Break up the “work” time into small blocks. If the kids were in school, they would be going to specialists, having snack break or recess. Encourage them to move more and get outside during these breaks. Set a timer so they know when it is time to get back to work. We don’t want them having to work all day. Create a schedule everyone can agree on.
  4. Kids need time to adjust to transitions, especially if it is from play to work. Set timers for all breaks or give a warning when they have 5 minutes left, 2 minutes or 1-minute left. Then let them know how long they have to work. For younger kids, a time timer works to show the passage of time. It gives kids the knowledge that this “torture” won’t continue for too much longer.

Lastly, take time to connect with your kids throughout the day. Yes, it is difficult to balance the responsibilities of work with family life, but we are all experiencing this together. No one is expecting you to focus 100% on your job throughout the day. Take time for yourself and your family because when this is over – things will not go back to “normal.”  However, this “next normal” can be better for you and your family if you put the time in now.