Managing Time

What Happens When Our Kids Lose Track of Time — for a Full Year

ADHD brains lose track of time. This is triply true in a pandemic, when our kids’ guardrails of school, sports, and social activities are gone. How has the suspension of normal routines and schedules been most challenging — or liberating — for your child ADHD? ADDitude’s February Sweepstakes asked this question — and here is how you answered it for a chance to win a Revibe connect.

Losing track of time in a pandemic - clock image

One year ago, our children were trying out for baseball teams, setting forth on field trips, performing in school plays, and entering stores with impunity. It feels like yesterday, and also five years ago. Pandemic time, we have learned, is a real head trip.

The suspension of regular schedules and routines has hit children with ADHD particularly hard. At the same time, fewer school buses to catch and practices to attend has created time for family walks, game nights, and sleep. Eleven months in, we asked caregivers to share the most challenging and liberating aspects of pandemic time for their families. Read some of our favorite responses below.

The Pros of Pandemic Time for ADHD Families

“A silver lining of the pandemic has been the liberation from societal norms. We always knew our son’s strengths were his creativity, intelligence, and fearlessness, but being in quarantine has given us the space to focus on his best attributes. Instead of forcing his life to fit into a very small box for neurotypical people, we have crafted a schedule and life for him that doesn’t conform.”

“The pandemic’s greatest gift to our family is time together. Before, it was wake up, get to school or work, come home, dinner, bed — rinse and repeat. Now I’m able to connect with my sons on a level we never had before. I am thankful for not having to fight the outside world (bullying, peer influence) for a bit longer. I know my sons will return to school in person soon enough. For now, I’m holding on to them as tight as I can.”

“Less structured time, less running around, and less hustle are liberating. I don’t miss the constant yelling to hurry up, don’t forget this, and don’t forget that.”

[Are You Crisis Schooling? Daily Schedule Advice for ADHD Families]

“I was able to see why and how my daughter’s inability to focus was a legitimate concern to her, despite her teachers always stating that she was focusing fine. It made my concerns for her more concrete, and I was able to push for an evaluation and diagnosis. We have been able to make more progress together to set her up for success in her future.”

“My son and I both have ADHD so we have been able to create schedules and structured routines together. There have been ups and downs, but we have learned so much more about one another!”

The pandemic pushed us to try homeschooling. Both of my children have ADHD and homeschooling allows us to take breaks when needed and spend extra time on topics that interest them. I think this will be a long-term thing for us!”

“The most liberating thing about this pandemic has been to be able to personally make breakfast for my son everyday and take him to exercise together. We’ve been given the gift of time.”

“This pandemic has offered both me and my child the opportunity to spend time thinking — sorting through all those jumbled up thoughts and emotions we bury deep inside. And we have been given the blessed time to do this together. That has lead to such great changes in our lives. We have spent time with each other, one-on-one – without our phones, or remotes, or game controllers, in our hands. The amount of growth inside us each, individually, is simply amazing.”

“2020 forced us to thin out our activities and re-evaluate our priorities. While it breaks my heart to think about what families have gone through and how the pandemic has ravaged the world, we have used this time to focus on the family. Since we are homeschooling, I have had a much better look at what is causing issues at school than when they were in a physical classroom. There is much work to be done (especially dealing with focusing and school work), but at least we are headed in the right direction.”

[Additional Reading: “I’ve Been Homeschooling for Years. Here’s What I Want You to Know.”]

The Cons of Pandemic Time for ADHD Families

“The most challenging aspect of the pandemic is definitely balancing full-time work-from-home with virtual school demands. Aside from the logistics of meetings and class times, the biggest struggle for my son is not having the structure of in-person school. As a first grader, it is hard for him to pay attention to Zoom calls and it is difficult motivating him to do assignments independently without tears. This has been emotionally challenging for us all, mostly because I hate to see him so sad.”

“I have found that I have less time to help my daughter during the pandemic. I am a teacher and have to teach remotely so I am constantly in class. I give my daughter directions but she loses focus and once I am online I cannot redirect her.”

“The pandemic has affected us all in so many significant ways, especially my daughter, who has autism spectrum disorder and ADHD. She struggles with remembering transitions and has a difficult time navigating them when they do come up.”

The biggest challenges are winter and managing screen time. When it’s cold outside and my child can’t play — so many recreational organizations are closed and sports aren’t happening — all he wants to do is be left alone with screens. There’s a power struggle almost every day over screen use, even when we have established rules. I cannot wait for the spring and for sports to resume!”

“The biggest challenge for me personally is balancing being mom, teacher, and playmate for my son. We eat lunch together, and I used to check in on his school work at that time. Then I realized that he needs a break from school talk, so we tried talking about his interests or going for a walk instead.”

“The pandemic has brought to light my eldest child’s executive functions struggles. While he was able to excel academically in a brick-and mortar-setting, his struggles were hidden by the environment of his learning. Watching him struggle at home has made us take note of issues that would probably have not come out unless he had chosen to attend college when stakes were much higher.”

“Like many, one of my biggest challenges is keeping my son engaged in the virtual learning environment. By the end of his first class, he is already mentally drained from trying to keep focused. This makes it difficult to get through the rest of the day and keep track of assignments. Not having the opportunity to see, meet, and interact with others has caused feelings of loneliness.”

“I have found that being a single mother with ADHD to two children who also have ADHD is a major challenge during this pandemic. I had to quit my Community Mental Health nursing position to stay home with my daughter because in-person schooling has been closed down all year.”

“The biggest challenge is seeing my son struggle. He was a 4.0 student last year with the help of medicine, social cues, and teachers. This year he is lucky to have one A. Teachers expect every student to be able to ‘rise to the occasion’ and participate in class like they would have in school.”

“The most challenging thing is that the entire family is together ALL the time! The most rewarding thing is also that the entire family is together all the time!”

When ADHD Brains Lose Track of Time: Next Steps

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