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Why Afternoons Feel Endless When Your Child Has ADHD

Does your child melt down most afternoons — exhausted from holding it together at school? Does she require constant homework monitoring and refocusing? Do you dread the 4 pm “witching hour?” Many of our readers struggle daily to keep their kids calm, focused, and productive between school and dinner while ADHD medication is wearing off and time is ticking away. Here, ADDitude parents share snapshots that prove you are not alone.

Bored boy with ADHD doing homework, frustrated during endless afternoon

ADHD Afternoons: Losing Calm and Focus After School

“My 5 year old struggles to get through school and after-school care without any major blowups. If she is able to make it through without a meltdown, her self-control has reached its absolute limit by the time I pick her up. She unleashes in the car on the way home. Any tiny trigger and she will have a full meltdown with yelling, hitting, and kicking. The only thing that works is to let her go in her room and ride out the tantrum until it’s over — then she’s able to come back out and be fine again.”

“My son comes home overwhelmed from the day and argumentative about anything and everything. He argues that he doesn’t know how to do his assignments, but when you sit to help him he fights about every little detail. He paces, stands, shifts, and becomes more agitated by the second. As dinnertime approaches, he becomes more upset about the work not having been completed. By the time he goes to bed, he is angry, hurt, and overwhelmed. Typically, his homework is still not done.”

“Even when we set a goal like ‘Social studies done in 45 minutes,’ homework assignments can take two or three times longer than any reasonable estimate. Sometimes, it takes a long time to find everything he needs to get started (checking the website, writing down the assignment), sometimes he goes beyond the assignment (reading beyond the assigned pages because it’s interesting), sometimes he finds something else that distracts him (a magazine or a book—whatever is lying around), sometimes he takes a long trip to the bathroom, sometimes he’s just not peppy and the work becomes a slow, plodding process.”

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“The problem is all the tasks that need to be completed during that time after school but before dinner, combined with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), plus being tired after a day at school. We’re starting to leave some homework to be completed in the morning , waking up extra early. It seems to be a good option for my early bird youngest, at least.”

ADHD Afternoons: Coping with Homework and Schedule Frustrations (or Not)

“I have to constantly remind my son to take the toys off the table and start his homework. Once he gets started, there are a million questions — some related to the assignment and many not related at all. When it’s time for me to check his homework, my son walks away and begins doing something else so that I have to get him back on track to correct any mistakes. If I suggest that he needs to correct a question, he gets upset and frustrated, saying things like: ‘Don’t tell me — I got them all wrong.’ ‘I’m so stupid.’ ‘I can’t do this.’ Or he will just bury his head in the sofa cushions.”

“Our worst time is usually right after school. My son has to take the time to refocus, so he can get his homework done, eat dinner, and fall into his nightly routine. If his routine is interrupted, he becomes short tempered and suffers outbursts, easily hurt feelings, and a lack of energy to finish his usual tasks once we get home. The only solution I have found is to try to fit what he does anyway around any extra thing we’re doing. I just have him eat a snack wherever we are, and do as much homework as possible wherever we are going.”

“If our 11-year-old son has any surprises, even good ones, he gets completely thrown and quickly becomes very, very angry. This can happen at any time during his day, but he has the toughest time with flexibility as it gets later. When his meds wear off, he’s tired or ‘hangry,’ these all seem to be triggers. If anything goes wrong, it takes a long time for him to calm down, and he remains overly sensitive to anything negative for the rest of the evening.”

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“The most difficult time of the day at our house is homework time. It’s all our child can do to hold it together during the school day; so, after school, he is done. Homework time is more like wartime — full of arguing, meltdowns, and procrastination. We end up not even trying to accomplish the homework until bedtime, which creates a whole new issue.”

ADHD Afternoons: Maintaining Drive as the Medication Wears Off

“My son is 15 and takes medication to help manage his ADHD symptoms. As his school work gets more demanding, I’m finding that evenings are becoming much more challenging because the medication has worn off and it’s harder for him to focus. He doesn’t have time to finish his homework at school, but at home he has the distraction of his computer and his phone. He’s going to bed later because his work is taking much longer.”

“After school is the toughest time for my son. When he comes home from school, he watches movies or plays with Legos to decompress. Then, he forgets to get his homework done, or spends too much time on one assignment and ends up late to Boy Scouts, basketball, or dinner. I would love for him to be more independent and not need me to follow him around to tell him it’s time to switch to the next thing.”

“Homework takes such a long time. My son pushes hard to stay at home to complete his homeschooling assignments, in spite of the clear evidence that going to the tutoring center or the library helps him pay attention. He responds better to a set number of assignments per day, but often lets them ‘rideuntil he realizes that his whole day has been waiting and distraction, and that he won’t get to see any friends or play games until they are done. It’s exhausting to be Our Lady of Perpetual Timekeeping in the household. I have work to do, too!”

[How to Survive the After-School Witching Hour]

How to Treat ADHD in Children: Next Questions

  1. What ADHD medications are used to treat children?
  2. Is ADHD medication right for my child?
  3. What are common side effects associated with ADHD medication?
  4. What natural treatments help kids with ADHD?
  5. What if the medication stops working?
  6. How can I find an ADHD specialist near me?