Does Your Child with ADHD Need Help with Homework?

Are you looking for ways to help your child or teen handle the daily struggle with homework? The struggle (theirs and yours) is real. It may look like a lack of motivation, or defiance, forgetfulness or even a learning disability but in reality, it is probably their Executive Function skills.

The Homework Help for ADHD covers seven Executive Function skills that have the biggest impact on homework and includes information on what to look for and plenty of strategies to help compensate.

Laine Dougherty - Notebook - Homework Help for ADHD - blue #1

Due to the current circumstances and requirements for social distancing, our classes and individual services will be conducted via Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Add Power to Your Day – Set an Intention

sunrise over hilltopDo you start each day with an intention or do you let the day unfold as it will? An intention according to Oxford Dictionaries is, “a thing intended; an aim or plan.” Now that might sound a bit like a goal, but I see the goal as having an endpoint. An intention is more of a feeling, an awareness or a purpose rather than a specific result. With an intention set for the day, you may find that it guides how you go through your day. Remember we are talking feelings and not results.

For example, maybe you want to make a point of daily self-care, or intend to be more deliberate about taking in the experiences that only summer in New England can offer.  Or, maybe you want to be more present with your kids or, simply decide to find joy throughout your day. Whatever it is, it needs to be meaningful to you.

If that seems overwhelming (after all, the choices are unlimited) then take a tip from Joshua Becker – whose book, The Minimalist Home, I am currently reading. He uses one sentence each day:

“Today, I commit myself to ____________________.”

His blog goes on to give examples such as,

      • “Today, I commit myself to being the best mother I can be.
      • Today, I commit myself to healthy eating.
      • Today, I commit myself to this work goal.”

Of course, you can have intentions for more specific things too, like getting through the meeting, showing understanding with your kids, putting things away as you use them. It can be anything that speaks to you and your life. It is not a “to do”, it is more like an “approach” to your day. Sometimes we get so caught up in the to do’s that we lose our sense of who we want to be. Keeping an intention in mind, can keep you focused on the important aspect of your life (hint: it is not about doing more)

Now, you may find that by repeating the same intention for a week or a month, that certain things change. Simply focusing on an area, increases its presence. You’ve heard the statement that “energy flows where intention goes.” You may find that it may lead you to a deeper understanding of yourself or a change in behavior that will enhance your life.

My Intention: Today I set clear boundaries around my work and play time and respect what I accomplish. What’s your intention for today?

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“Don’t just drift through life. Live with intention and purpose.” Joshua Becker

Time for the “Next Normal”

Good habits compass

Depending on where you live you may be in week 6, 7, 8 or more of this “stay home” recommendation due to the Coronavirus. You might be working from home and trying to support your kids learning online while trying to maintain some kind of “normalcy”. Or you might be on the medical front lines or part of the “essential” group that keeps the world turning. Thank you for all that you do and are doing no matter which group you are in.

Although a little more warning that this was coming would have been helpful, we are where we are and it looks like it will continue for a while. Please don’t be disheartened, this can be seen as an opportunity in many ways.

First, just a note about all that productivity stuff you’ve been seeing. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t doing everything that someone else thinks you should be doing. No guilt here. We’ve all seen our routines and schedules gone, our self-care rituals moved to the bottom of the list and our patience replaced with overwhelm. Not to mention the disorganization that is building up due to our lack of time. It’s all okay as long as it is all temporary and is not causing you more stress.

If you or your children have ADHD or ADHD symptoms then the change in structure or schedule can be very upsetting. Home is where the distractions are, so it can be more difficult to focus. The online schedules that I have seen change every day and a struggling working memory may not be able to remember it all. Also switching things from paper and pencil to online requires the ability to think flexibly and that can be very challenging for an ADHD brain. More information can be found in last month’s newsletter here.

Let’s talk about two areas that are important to this “next normal.” Relationships and Structure.

Relationships are important – your relationship with yourself, your family, co-workers and friends. This “next normal” has freed up some responsibilities (chauffeuring to after school activities, commuting, overbooking, etc.) and made it possible to spend more time with your family. It has also added responsibilities like helping your children learn, figuring out how to do your job remotely while keeping the kids busy and making do without the support services you may depend on.

Next Normal: Relationships

  1. You’ll have to “steal” time for yourself every day to make sure you are staying healthy in mind and body since everyone is at home. Taking care of yourself is important so you can care for your family too.
  2. Pay attention to your state of mind and honor it. If things are getting too stressful or you just want to curl up on the couch, then do it. It is your mind’s way of saying, “stop, I’m feeling stressed (overwhelmed, frustrated, scared, etc.) and I need a break.
  3. Reach out to family and friends. Virtual dinner parties, birthday drivebys, or just a call to say hello can do wonders for you and the recipient.
  4. Limit your “bad news exposure.” It can wear you down and increase your stress level which can lower your immunity.

Keep some structure in your day. Sure, it was great to stay in pajamas for the first few days and catch up on Netflix, but if you are still in that stage – it is time to get back on track. You may not have noticed the subtle effect on your mood, patience or ability to get work done but it was there. Children thrive with structure as evidenced in every preschool. It helps them know what to expect and that reduces any anxiety. When there are no routines, then outbursts and meltdowns can occur. The CDC wrote an article on creating structure and rules you can find here. Adding structure back into your day can help you get more done, reduce your stress and make the kids happy. Coaching can help you clarify your direction and set benchmarks so you can see and appreciate your progress.

Next Normal: Structure

  1. Make a schedule for the week that includes the times you and your kids will need to be online for something and post it where everyone can see it. Include family time and some outside play time. Don’t over plan but focus on the top 2 or 3 things that are the highest priority or would make you feel the best if they were done.
  2. Make sure everyone is up and dressed and has time for breakfast before the day’s responsibilities start.
  3. Keep up with the laundry and the dishes.  A quick “pick-up” every night gets things back to normal so you are ready for the next day. Clutter causes stress, wastes time and eats up your energy. (Thinking about doing something uses the same amount of energy as actually doing it. Clutter causes a low grade fight or flight response in the body, lowering your ability to fight off infections.)
  4. Plan out your meals and keep mealtimes at regular times. Kids often don’t realize they are hungry or thirsty until they physically feel it, and then they will grab the first thing they see. Keep them on an even keel with meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body (up to 60% for young kids). Don’t allow yourself to skip a meal just to get something done.

Although it may be a while until things return to something that resembles our past, we have the opportunity to forge ahead and make things better rather than dwelling on missing the past. Coaching can help you move forward in a direction that serves you. Isn’t it time for you?

 “Your dreams are calling for a bigger YOU to show up.”

ADHD vs. Covid-19

The ADHD brain is quick, creative and intelligent. It has certain things it likes to do and things it doesn’t like to do. You probably have a great ability to focus on something when it is of high interest to you or is new.  Or maybe you struggle with attention or focus. Focus also includes the ability to determine the best thing to be paying attention to, as well as, when it is time to switch to something else. Focus can have a negative effect when we don’t notice how much we are focusing on something. COVID-19 is new and that can cause you to want to learn all you can about it. Some might say you could easily hyper focus on it. With frequent updates on the internet and TV you could binge watch and overload on information. All this does is to heighten any anxiety you may already be experiencing.

Enter Covid-19, the “bad guy” in this case, stealing your attention and your ability to focus on the important things. So, what can you do instead? Pick specific times to watch the news or the updates from the President or the Governor. Record them if they come on at a time that doesn’t work for you. I noticed the 5:30pm updates were moving my dinner time to 7pm or later and that didn’t work. I also noticed we were hearing the same things over and over and yet I was expecting something new or different. It used up a lot of energy, energy that could have been used to work in the garden or take a walk or work on my business. Brain energy is limited each day, so choose wisely what you want to use it on.

Covid-19 will want you to stay in your pajamas because it feels safer and more comfortable when dealing with extra stress and it will want you to eat to feel better about this situation. Which means you may gain weight and not exercise (or even move off the couch) because you can’t even remember what day of the week it is. The structure that was built into your day whether it was around getting your kids to school or yourself to work, driving here and there fulfilling your daily responsibilities is now gone or at least changed. I understand many are still working their regular or even extra shifts to keep us and others safe (including my husband) but the structure has changed for them as well. Your kids thrive on structure! The school creates the habits and routines to help them be better able to learn. Have you noticed how your child’s ability to think and entertain themselves other than with a screen is gone? Score one for Covid-19☹

Help your kids thrive during this time by creating a structure to their day. Make sure everyone gets up and gets dressed by a “normal” time and then take this opportunity to experiment with different routines that include learning time, exercise time and play time for all.

This is a great opportunity to use whatever “new” time you have whether you are still able to work or not in order to focus on something that you have been wanting to do, or need to do. Possible ideas are exercising more regularly, eating healthy meals or trying new recipes, playing with your kids more, decluttering and organizing your home or taking up a new hobby, getting the taxes done or learning to meditate. Whatever it is, this is the time to do it. Score one for ADHD.

No one knows how long this may go on but one thing is for sure – you have the chance to take advantage of this time or let it stress and overwhelm you – which will pay off in the long run? Don’t let Covid-19 knock you out!

If you are looking for support, we have moved our services and some of our group classes to online during this time.

Self-Care is a Necessity for You and Them

What does self-care mean to you? Here is a definition I found on PsychCentral.Selfcare is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.“  I thought it was grabbing a piece of chocolate? Seriously though, during this busy winter season it is important to remember to take time to recharge and renew because it is when our reserves are low that we are most susceptible to colds and stress. So, self-care is not a luxury, it is a vital and necessary part of a balanced life.

What recharges you? Researchers have discovered that as little as 15 minutes in nature is enough to recharge the brain, lower stress levels and increase feelings of well-being. Or maybe you prefer a cup of tea, a good book, a nap, a 10-minute meditation or some music. Whatever makes you happy. Find something (a few things) that give you that “recharged” feeling that you can use every day. Do you have a hobby that can be easily picked up? Whatever it is, it is important to give the brain a break to regain some of its energy. There is also reducing stress, getting a good night’s sleep (adults need 7-8 hours….not 6), being active and eating healthy. If you struggle with ADHD, it is even more important to take time to recharge daily.

Help your child with ADHD recognize what makes them feel good too and instill an understanding for the importance of eating healthy, getting enough sleep (8-11 hours), and exercise in order to recharge their ADHD brain. Cultivate their interest in something that excites them and that they are good at to rebuild the self-confidence ADHD can sometimes whittle away.

Kids are working so hard at school, especially if they have ADHD. The constant stimulus and distractions can use up their physical and emotional reserves so that by the time they get home, the tiniest thing may send them out of control (or at least be more of an outburst than would be normal if they were at their best.) The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and those with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine, the “feel good hormone” needed for thinking and emotional stability. As soon as they get home it is time to refuel and recharge. Do not hit the homework before taking a 30-45 minute break for some active fun, and a protein snack.

Help your child discover the little things they can do to calm and recharge in a short amount of time. Going outside, building, coloring, shooting some hoops, or drinking a hot cocoa with marshmallows (yes, a bit of sugar and caffeine calms the busy brain). Notice TV and video games did not make the list as they tend to stir up the wake-up hormone, serotonin, rather than acting to calm. We want them calm and capable of managing their emotions before they start homework. They are more likely to be able to handle the problem solving needed when their emotions are in a good place. Stress and frustrations should not be part of doing homework.

Setting aside time to take care of yourself sends a positive message to your children that it is important to take care of yourself so you can be the best parent you can be and they should do the same. What a happier world we would live in, if everyone took time to take care of themselves.

Back to School Tips

BTS Tip 6: Back to school is usually about getting the kids ready, but what about you? Are you tolerating things that could be changed – just because it is easier to deal than to change it?
How’s your kitchen? Is it functional, organized and convenient? For example, are the things you need for breakfast and packing a lunch with snacks easily accessible? How about the things you use for dinner prep – are they handy? Then why are you working so hard? Reduce your own decision fatigue by making it work. Lowering your stress level is worth it!
31 Days of Back to School Organization on our FaceBook page. Like our page so you won’t miss them.

 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

ADHD and DecisionsDecisions, decisions, decisions! For the ADHD brain, making a decision can be quite the process. First, you will need to collect some information, but how much information? When do you know when you have enough information? Is it the best/most informed information for the decision you need to make? Has this ever happened to you?

If the decision is made quickly, we may be called impulsive. Yet, if we take longer than expected we are accused of procrastinating. What makes making decisions so difficult?

Every decision or choice we make uses up willpower according to Dr. Nowell, Ph.D. Since we have a limited amount of willpower it can be more challenging to make a decision because of our lower level of willpower. The brain is the organ in the body that requires the most glucose to keep it running. Each decision uses up a bit more of that glucose which can then deplete the reserves in the rest of the body. The less energy the harder even the simplest decisions can become.

Simplifying certain decisions can free up what I call our “brain bandwidth” and can translate into more freedom and less stress. One strategy for simplifying is to make decisions ahead of time about the little things you don’t want in your life or don’t need to think about each day.  Darren Hardy of Success magazine calls them your “non-negotiables” – those things you no longer have to think about because you have already made a decision about it and are sticking to it.  It could be setting a specific bedtime or deciding a no cookies after 6pm “rule” or a 30 minute walk you “must” take each day. Then you no longer have to ask yourself, “Should I take a walk today?”  The decision has been made and you just need to follow it.

Creating routines and habits can also save you from using up your brain’s energy.  The ADHD brain struggles with routines. You may have noticed that each morning things can happen in a different order or get “forgotten” or distraction gets in the way and adds its own complications as you or your child are trying to get out the door. Creating a morning routine that is practiced enough to become a habit (automatic) can save hours of frustration and allow you to leave the house with EVERYTHING you need.

For kids with ADHD, think of how many mini decisions they have to make each morning starting as soon as they are awake. Without a routine here, every day they will do things in a different order or leave things out unless you remind them. You end up trying to keep them to some kind of a routine but they probably don’t realize it. That’s why you may catch them staring off into space without a clue of what to do next. Work together and create a simple routine that will get them out the door without constant hovering from you. They will thank you later.

Creating a routine around the evening process and the arrival home process or homework routine can also be helpful.  What other things could benefit from a routine?  Other ideas might include organizing, or maintaining your organizational systems, packing up sports equipment for practice, or bill paying, laundry or car maintenance.  You get the idea, think of how it could change your lives and eliminate the drain on willpower if you eliminated the simple decisions so you can focus on the bigger ones. Imagine what it would be like if decision making was easier because you and your family were coming from a place with more than enough brain energy and willpower to make the decisions that are right for your family.

How to Increase Motivation

motivationMotivation – is what drives us to do something willingly. As Google says, “motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.” It can be an internal reason or an external one. If you are motivated by internal or intrinsic rewards then the motivation comes from within you; like the feeling of a job well done, pride in yourself for reaching a goal, etc. This is what we would like to foster in our children and ourselves.

However, if you are motivated by external or extrinsic rewards – then things that can be bought or received (games, toys, $) will motivate you. This would be the “carrot” type of motivation. The opposite is the “stick” type of motivation where task completion is based on avoiding a punishment of sorts. There is a time and place for this type of motivation too but it has a downside.

In Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive, he mentions that the carrot and stick type of motivation only works for simple, and/or uncreative type activities. Once a reward or a punishment is introduced it tends to narrow the focus and limits creativity. Pink says, “The drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging and absorbing – is essential for high levels of creativity” (p45). So if we are to become more creative and motivated at work, school or home, then the task/project needs to have three things. Pink refers to them as autonomy, mastery and purpose. The first as Pink calls it is “autonomy.” Autonomy means that you get to decide about the task, the timeframe and/or the method/approach you want to use. When you have this option, you are more willing to keep at something until you master it provided it also has a purpose – which are the other two necessities.

Think about a project or report you need to do for work. When you are given all the specifics and it is just a matter of putting the pieces together, are you inspired to do your best? Or do you just go through the motions in order to meet the deadline without even considering adding some creativity to it?

The more we know about what motivates us, the more opportunity we have to design our own projects and develop that inner creativity. We can also use what we learn to help our kids motivate themselves. Think about how hard it must be for them to do boring, busy work type homework. They have no power over decisions (i.e. no autonomy), are more interested in getting it done, than mastering the content and I am pretty sure they don’t see the big picture (purpose) in the homework either. Without motivation, kids are not developing an interest in learning for the fun of it, nor are they developing their creative problem solving skills. What kind of world will we have without creativity, motivation or a love of learning?

Coffee and Routines

Routines keep us goingRoutines, we all have them. Some are helpful and some are not. Routines that are based on good habits are sets of things we do every day that have a positive effect. You probably have a morning routine that gets you and your family out the door in the morning, and an evening routine that ends the day. Do they serve you? By that I mean do they make things run smoothly, keeping you relaxed or do they add chaos, disorganization or a sense of hurriedness to your life?

I think the holiday season is one time where the impact of disrupting the routines of the day can show its effect. Behaviors erupt, patience is thin, and chaos reigns. If there is any ADHD in the family, then those routines/habits are even more important. For those with ADHD, a routine may not always be the same from day to day. In fact, for most people/children with ADHD every day is a new day and often a new “routine”. However, it definitely helps if those with ADHD can create a routine of good habits so that they are on automatic pilot rather than having to take the time to figure out what they should do next. It is the thinking “now what do I have to do?” that causes the mind to go blank or to act on whatever is in front of them.

According to pediatricians at www.healthychildren.org, ““Every family needs routines. They help to organize life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent.” We’ve all seen this. A sudden change of plans can send our day into a tailspin or worse, change our normally happy youngster’s personality into something we don’t recognize (tantrums optional). Routines for kids provide a sense of predictability and that makes them feel safe. It does the same for adults although I would change the feeling of safety to a sense of control.

Routines teach responsibility, organization, and cooperation and positively reduce your stress level, save you time and energy and bring a sense of control to your daily life. It is that simple. Routines are beneficial in the morning, after school or when returning home for the day, dinner time, and bedtime. It’s not just about the “basics” of a routine as there is often room to add something to your routine that you feel has been missing. For example: it is not just about remembering to brush your teeth at night, but also about ending your day on a positive note. Are you watching TV until bed and then tossing and turning or do you read something positive after having set yourself up for a stress free morning?(Clothes out, lunches packed or planned, keys on hook, phone charging, etc.)

Take a look at your routines and those of your family and see if they are beneficial or not. If things are not working, figure out why and try something new. Keep at it until it works. If things are working well, then you might want to consider adding something to an already established routine. Research shows that linking a new behavior to something that is already “routine” makes it easier for it to become a habit. I have added writing in a journal to my morning routine that also includes listing three things I am grateful for. It starts my day with gratitude and a positive attitude. What will you add to your routine?

7 Benefits of Coaching

change buttonWouldn’t it be nice if changing your life was as easy as hitting a button? Last month’s blog talked about things you could do to create a new habit or change something about your life. But sometimes it takes more than “willpower” or reminders on your phone, it takes help. Help can come from a friend, family member, coworker, coach, book, or internet. It depends on what you are looking for as to which type of help you might need.

If you are serious about making a change or developing a new goal for yourself or deciding to finally get organized, then a coach could be beneficial. There are all kinds of coaches and it can be difficult to figure out what kind of coach is best for you and for what you want to change. First you want to check that the coach has been through an approved program with actual coaching practice time. Then based on what you want to do, pick a coach that specializes in that field. It might be a health coach, business coach, life coach or organizer coach, etc. The list goes on but I want to focus on an Organizer Coach.

An Organizer Coach has experience in ADHD, organizing and coaching. This trifecta of knowledge combines together to help you better understand yourself, develop goals, implement strategies, manage responsibilities and empowers you to live the life you dream of.  As a COC (Certified Organizer Coach) I believe that you have all the answers inside you just waiting to get out. I believe you are creative and resourceful and if asked the right questions, can come to develop a goal, strategy or plan that nourishes your life.

Here are seven ways an Organizer Coach can help you change your dreams into reality:

  1. Help you pursue your goals and dreams by helping you determine the specifics and breaking them down into manageable steps.
  2. Can help you understand ADHD and how it is impacting your life – and the odds are it is impacting your life.
  3. Helps you figure out how to manage your time and yourself (ex. strategies to stop procrastination, set boundaries and plan your priorities).
  4. Holds you accountable for what you want to do (you determine the how, when and why you need to feel successful).
  5. Provides support and acts as a sounding board while you work through it. Sometimes, things are not as simple as they appear and coaching can help you dive deeper into understanding yourself and hold up a non-judgmental mirror to help you reframe your thinking.
  6. Develop personalized strategies and systems. If you have tried before and failed with systems or strategies it is important to figure out what “actually” happened and find another way that compensates for that.
  7. Empowers you to live the life you dream of. Getting some guidance can bring joy (with a little bit of work) into your life that you had previously only wished for.

Does reading this motivate you? Are you ready to make a change and improve your life? Then click here for more information about our group coaching class starting soon.

Change 2.0

change buttonThere are only a few weeks left until the new school year starts and we all transition into the start of fall. If you had the power to change one thing about this time of year…..what would it be? Think about that for a few minutes and maybe write down a few things. Now pick the one that would make the biggest impact on your life. Stop dreaming about things like losing 20 pounds, getting organized once and for all, finding a new job, being less stressed or anything else that is on your mind and start changing your life TODAY!

I know from experience that sometimes, no usually, change is hard and often we don’t try until we reach a breaking point. That’s what happened to me almost 32.5 years ago when I “got organized.” What I have learned in the years since then has made a bigger impact on my life than getting organized did.

  • No one succeeds instantly
  • Change takes time
  • Relapses are normal
  • You CAN succeed!
  • You have to be flexible
  • It is worth the effort – no matter how many times you have failed before
  • The end result is better than you could ever imagine!

Often times we get so caught up in the moment that we don’t take the time to think through and problem solve what it is we are struggling with. I see this all the time with my clients, they “don’t know why x happens”, and they just accept it as if it is out of their control. But they ARE the one in control – with every decision or lack of decision. If you are ready to make a change, these steps can help:

  1. Analyze what it is you want to change? How is this impacting your life? What would your life be like if this wasn’t bothering you? Dream big!
  2. What would this change look like? Start with the end result and work your way backwards to the smallest step you can take today.
  3. Make space in your life for this change. How long do you need to work on this new “habit” in order to see a change? Where in your day can you find the 10 or 15 minutes you need to build this new habit? Link this time slot to a habit you already have like brushing your teeth, etc.
  4. Set reminders on your phone, put up sticky notes, find an accountability partner, or whatever else will help you remember this new time slot.
  5. Keep track of your success by using a chart, app or tick marks on a whiteboard, whatever will show you how you are doing. Reward yourself after “X” number of positive successes. Don’t expect perfection. New habits can take up to 300 practices before you “own” them.

Lastly, don’t forget that new habits, systems and routines need maintenance. Life interrupts but it doesn’t have to derail. Forgive yourself and get back to it. If you find you are starting over frequently, go back and take a look at steps 1-5. If it is important to you…..it’s worth fighting for, don’t you think?

Good luck with whatever it is that you want to change. I am working on getting to bed at a consistent time each night something I am constantly struggling with. Please share your struggles and successes in the comments below.