ADHD brain hacks to help your child focus

"Why can't you just focus?!!!"

It is the night before an important assignment is due at school. It is on the most boring of topics. Your child has left it to the last minute. Every time they try and switch their brain into gear to get it done, it gets worse.  They can't focus.  You can feel your stress rising.  Why can't they just focus! The more they try, the harder it gets!

I know you understand what I am talking about. It is so hard for people with ADHD to focus on things that they are not interested in. I watch my kids (and husband) struggle with this daily. Sometimes they will start a fight just to avoid doing the task.

It can be so frustrating.  Most of all, for the person that has ADHD.  

Unfortunately boring tasks are a part of life, so it is a great idea to have some tools to boost your child's focus when you need to. Here are some brain hacks to experiment with and see what works for your family members with ADHD.

1. Use music 

You might like to try putting some music on.  For some, music can be a gateway to changing up how we feel.  For some, having instrumental music going while doing a task can help.

Recently we have been experimenting with having theme songs i.e. having a certain song for a certain task so your brain associates that piece of music with getting into the right mindset.  For example, a cleaning song, a homework song, a brushing the teeth song.  Devices like Hey Google make this super easy. 

2. Shut out distractions 

For others, their brain might need to shut out all distractions (like mobile phones), have a clear desk in a plain room and shut everything out, not emerging until the task is done.

3. Break the task down 

Sometimes it is so much easier to break the task down into little simple steps.  Listing it out in simple steps makes it so much easier to check off and get quick wins (which helps for motivation).  For example:

The task ‘tidy your room’ is quite vague and overwhelming.  If we break it down it can be easier.

Step one: make your bed

Step 2: open the blinds

Step 3: pick up lego

4. Do not eat the frog 

Eating the frog is a saying people often use. It means to do the hardest task first.  This is terrible advice for the ADHD brain and can lead to some serious procrastination.  For the ADHD brain it is better to start with the easiest or quickest task, get some early wins to inspire you to keep going and gain momentum.

5. Peak their interest 

The task might be super boring and we know that that makes it hard for the ADHD brain.  So is there a way that you can incorporate something that your child is interested in into the task? Can you change the task around slightly?  For some of my child's school assignments we have been able to incorporate dirt bikes into the subject matter.  As he loves those!  It is not always possible but it’s worth a try.  Incorporating interest can help with your child's ignition to get started!

6. Time of day 

Be aware of when your child works the best.  There are certain parts of the day that are more volatile than others.  It pays to have a think about when your child can work the most efficiently.  I have noticed that doing homework in the afternoons takes four times as long in our house.  So one morning a week they do homework before school, after medication and breakfast.  This reduces the time it takes to get through a task. 

7. Work in blocks and use rewards 

Working in time blocks can be great way to get things done. Depending on your child, you may choose 5 mins, 10 mins, 20 mins etc time blocks where they work on a certain task then break or do something else.  Having an hour glass timer can be a visual representation of the time left.

Be sure to use little instant rewards and loads of praise once they get through the block.

8. Use a countdown to launch into a task like a rocket 

We have been experimenting with yelling out a countdown.  "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" then start the task.  Think of this like a rocket launch.  Make it fun.  “Ok Harvey, we are going to read out your spelling words... let's get you ready.”  We then yell as loud as we can "5, 4, 3, 2, 1!!!!!"  My kids love this. This really helps with ignition. 

9. Try for just 10 mins 

If you are getting a lot of push back on a task and you can see your child is struggling, suggest that they try it for 10 mins.  Have an hourglass timer to show time.  "We are going to try working on this assignment for 10 minutes today, if after that 10 minutes, you feel like you can't continue then you don't have to.  Just do what you can in 10 minutes."   This can reduce the overwhelm that comes with starting a task. 

10. Use movement 

Sometimes movement can be your best friend.  We know that high intensity exercise is incredible for those with ADHD.  You can use movement to help your child get in the right mindset to focus.  Trampoline jumping, dance breaks, running - just 10 mins of movement before and sometimes during the task (movement breaks) can really help the ADHD brain.

11. Breath 

Different breathing exercises can really help with focus.  Slowing our breathing down.  Making sure we are breathing from our belly.  Studies have shown that just a few minutes of breath work before a task can really help the ADHD brain get into focus mode. 

I would love to know what works for your family.  Let me know in the comments below. 


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