It has long been known by parents of children with ADHD that the problems associated with ADHD do not go away when the school bell rings at 3:00. Inattention, trouble focusing and difficulty with social skills continue throughout the day. Keeping children busy and out of trouble after school can be as hard as it is to keep them on track during the school day.
Understanding ADHD and how it affects your child can help parents in planning activities that will bring out the best in their children. While some children may do extremely well in team sports, others may find the structure and competitiveness difficult. Others with social immaturity may find it hard to be part of a team or not get along well with teammates. Some other children may find the inability for self-expression to be stifling. It is necessary for parents to understand both ADHD and their child’s personality in order to find the best after school activities.
Physical activity is always good. Exercise can help release excess energy as well as stimulate the brain. Team sports can help teach social skills as well as provide a sport that requires physical and mental challenges. For those children that do not do well on team sports, you might consider swimming, track, dancing, gymnastics, or golf as a physical outlet. All of these provide physical and mental stimulation without the added stress that team sports can have.
There are also many forms of martial arts. These provide structured environments as well as teach self-control and patience.
Acting classes can be wonderful. They can provide ways to use your child’s imagination and help to develop social skills. Acting teaches group play and also requires individual learning. They help provide a creative outlet and provide for many different opportunities, from acting to scenery to stagehands.
Art or music classes also provide a creative outlet for ADHD children. Many children with ADHD have artistic traits and helping them to develop their skills is wonderful for self-esteem.
Group activities such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or 4H Clubs offer structure, fund, interactive play and community involvement. These clubs help to develop social skills, increase self-esteem as well as offering creative outlets.
More and more schools are creating community involvement clubs in which children go out into the community for a variety of reasons. One week they may help clean up a park, one week they may put on a show at a retirement community, the next week they may help out in a soup kitchen. These clubs offer children variety in a structured environment, increase self-esteem and increase awareness of others less fortunate and develop a sense of community pride and giving back.
No matter what activity you may choose with your child, monitor their progress. If you find an activity is not working or is becoming more detrimental than beneficial, try something different. Continue to work with your child to find their interests and develop pride in what they do. Success in anything will help your child to feel better about themselves.
You may want to discuss your child’s ADHD with the coach or leader of whatever activity you choose. Help the leader or coach learn how to work with children with ADHD to create the best environment possible. Let them know where your child may need additional assistance and what areas your child may excel and help out the most. Keeping in touch with the leader or coach is just as important as keeping in touch with your child’s teachers. Problems may be able to be eliminated with simple suggestions.
As much as the above activities can be great for children with ADHD, there are also some activities, which can cause problems. Excessive television or video games can be harmful. The ADHD brain cannot always separate messages or distinguish good and bad messages. They do not as easily “throw away” those messages they do not need. Instead they will take in commercials or violence as easily as they do the good in television shows. Additionally, children with ADHD can have trouble setting boundaries for themselves and an hour of television or video games can easily turn into three hours. These activities do not require social skills or interaction with other children and can create even more isolation in a child that may already feel he does not fit in.
Games or sports that require children to sit for long periods or wait for their turn may be hard for the child with ADHD. They often do not have the patience or the ability to sit still for extended periods of time. If a game is not quick moving, or is not interesting to your child, they will tend to fidget or lose track of what is going on around them while waiting for their turn to play. In team sports, make sure your child is interested in the game and can sit and watch the game while it is the other team’s turn.
Overall, a child with ADHD will respond positively to a game that is fun, provides interaction and positive reinforcement.
Find more information: ADHD and Education
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.