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Working from Home with Kids Under Foot? Here’s the Advice You Need

Working from home with kids in virtual school is now the norm, but that doesn’t make it easy. Telecommuting while overseeing distance learning for a child with ADHD is not quite impossible, but it sure feels that way most days. To get through this stressful time, ditch the expectation for perfection, take a step back, and remember your ABCs.

As a school psychologist (and mom of two) I’ve navigated all kinds of home-life challenges during this pandemic. Hybrid and remote schooling is a tough situation — for parents working from home, for our students who are tired of distance learning, and for educators juggling the same.

For families living with ADHD especially, keeping on top of your child’s distance learning while also working from home feels impossible most days. There are technology snafus, screen overloads, missed assignments, and increasingly more push-back and resistance from our children in these times.

Instead of adding extra pressure on yourself or your child to be perfect, take a step back, remind yourself that pandemic living is supposed to be hard, and stick to these ABCs for a better home environment.

Working from Home with Kids: The ABCs

A: Attention-seeking? Or Connection-seeking?

The next time your kids interrupt your work by “nagging” you, acting up, or exhibiting what you would traditionally call “attention-seeking” behavior, try to reframe those actions as connection-seeking instead.

Doing so makes it much easier to empathize with your kids and respond accordingly. If you’re about to jump on a Zoom conversation with your boss, set the expectation with your child that they can expect to receive your full attention once the call is finished — and actually follow through on that promise.

[Click to Read: 8 Secrets to Engaged Online Learning for Students with ADHD]

We’re living through an uncertain and stressful period; your kids are going to be impacted by it even if we do our best to shield them. Instead of getting frustrated with them (or yourself), focus on being present instead of perfect.

B: Behavior is Communicating Something

It’s important to remember that distance learning has magnified existing challenges for many children. Minor challenges with executive functioning are now larger. Problems with emotional self-regulation are now amplified. Your child with ADHD may be extra reactive, sensitive, anxious, or simply appear unmotivated for distance learning. They might be toggling to YouTube instead of focusing on Zoom, or resisting a return to the digital classroom after breaks.

In some ways, these challenges are to be expected. Stress changes things, and so do breaks in routines (on which kids with ADHD thrive), meaning these things are siphoning off cognitive resources for learning.

Many parents of kids with ADHD already know this, but it’s worth a reminder: Next time your child acts out or shuts down, ask yourself, “What unmet need are they trying to communicate right now?”

[Read: The Most Obvious Pandemic Parenting Advice You May Not Be Following]

For example, if your child refuses to change out of their pajamas for remote learning, they may not be trying to actively disobey you – they may be having a hard time transitioning from waking up to learning, and their morning routine may need to be tweaked. If your child is balking at the math menu worksheet, they probably aren’t trying to defy the teacher — maybe they need support with task initiation because the math seems too hard to conquer.

Kids don’t always have the right words to express themselves, their problems, and their stressors, which means it’s sometimes up to us as parents to do the translating. Instead of assuming the worst (i.e. my kid is acting out because they like seeing me stressed), lead with empathy instead. If you are stressed, your child is likely stressed, too. How can you work together to make the situation easier for both of you?

C: Connection is Protection

One thought I’ve shared with parents (and use myself daily!) is this: In stressful times, children who are connected are protected.

Right now, and as long as distance learning continues, it’s important to prioritize relationships over academic rigor. That means your connection with your child takes priority. Stressed out brains can’t learn anyway, so don’t force something that isn’t going to happen.

Focusing on connection doesn’t mean abandoning academic expectations. It’s about making sure that your child’s social-emotional needs are met first, so they can have the emotional resources to access the curriculum.

Make sure you don’t confuse work completion and compliance with learning, either. If you’re heavy-handed on work completion without empathy right now, it could backfire in a big way. Think about how it would feel if you had a stressful situation and someone was looming over you, telling you to perform better? Your child, and indeed all human beings, are more motivated when they feel connected and seen.

Connection with the teacher is also critical. If your child is struggling, reach out to the teacher to help build that relationship. In class or in distance learning, it’s important to remember that learning isn’t a place — it’s a relationship between teacher and student. If that relationship is absent or fractured, it will make learning difficult.

Bottom line? Engagement online during distance learning isn’t about the teacher having the fanciest Zoom breakout room trick, or you sitting down enforcing the rules about staying focused. It’s about the child feeling seen in a sea of Zoom squares by their teacher and feeling heard and supported by their parents when they say how hard it is.

Working from Home with Kids: Next Steps


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Updated on November 23, 2020

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