10 Tricks to Enhance Communication With Your ADHD Kid’s Academics
Sometimes, despite their best efforts, the best teachers do not know how to best motivate or support ADHD children. It must be frustrating for them. They are trying to work with a child in ways that make sense to them and in certain situations they may even feel that the child – and the family – are not doing their part.
Lately I’ve been struggling to support a teacher who is really trying to help my child but who is clearly frustrated. I want to help the teacher understand what it takes to reach my child. I don’t want to offend the teacher, but I want my child to feel successful when they work incredibly hard and make great strides, even if they don’t achieve all of the goals we have for them. The key to avoiding this is to improve communication with your ADHD child’s teachers.
I had good email exchanges with the teacher, some great conversations with my son and husband, and we brought the school’s study specialist into the conversation. We are definitely making progress. We all agree that we want to help my son prepare for junior high next year. This focus is absolutely critical to keeping the conversations positive and constructive.
Since this process worked well, the coach in me has to review and evaluate to find out what is working – so that I can do it again! My aim is to find solutions in successes!
So I thought it would help to share with you what I learned:
10 Tips To Improve Communication With Your ADHD Child’s Teachers
- Assume a positive intention. Always assume that your teacher will want to help, even if you are not already on the same page as you can help your child together.
- Acknowledge the teacher’s challenge. It is difficult to have large classes with many children, all of whom are learning differently. Be honest. You are sometimes frustrated with your child’s ADHD. Imagine if the teacher could think that way too! Realize how difficult it can be to raise these children who are really smart but have difficulty learning.
- Try not to blame or express anger. When we’re frustrated, we tend to look for other people’s mistakes. Blame is looking back and will not advance communication. Try to stay present and stay calm. If you are angry or frustrated, take a break before reacting.
- Show gratitude. Let the teacher know that you sincerely appreciate their efforts for your child. You don’t have to wait until the holidays or the end of the school year. Say or write a note to the teacher to let him know how grateful you are for trying to help your child.
- Explain to your child. Help the teacher understand what your child is experiencing and how it is showing up at home. Your child may “stick together” in school so that the teacher has no idea how excited they are or how hard they are trying! Make sure the teacher knows the big picture!
- Offer some solutions. Explain what you know about your child’s motivation. I realized that my son needs appreciation for what he’s doing well, some good old-fashioned compassion for how hard it can be for him to stay organized, and a little playfulness. Teacher’s response to these suggestions has been very positive. She said she would try and that’s all I can ask!
- Communicate what is important to you. If we are all focused on the goal, be it preparing this child for the next transition or teaching them lifelong learning, then we will work better together as a team. Sharing priorities is one of the best ways to improve communication with your ADHD child’s teachers. I let the teacher know that their grades are not as important to me as their learning to master the process and structure of their schoolwork. Our focus on the learning system for him is my priority.
- Call on the team and expertise of others. You know your child, but it is not your job to raise them. Let the learning specialists and teachers guide you and ask for ideas and support. Be ready to try things out and make changes until you find something that works. If you think there are things about ADHD that your teacher still needs help with learning the job, respectfully ask the school’s learning specialists to offer in-service training.
- No offense. Sometimes teachers fail to realize that their frustration at an ADHD child’s challenge in getting a job may sound like a hidden criticism of their parents. “Why doesn’t he just make it?” translated to “Why can’t you just help him with this?” And then we feel guilty because we feel guilty. ADHD is not an excuse, but it IS an important part of the explanation. Focus on what you can do to help your child and try not to get lost in the “must be a bad parent” trap we have set for ourselves!
- Assure the teacher that you will help, but that this is a work in progress. Teachers want to know that you are involved, but it is important that they know that you are not a “quick fix” to your child’s problems. I tell the teacher that I will provide support, structure and continuous communication and we will do our best. When it’s late, I’ll get my son to go to bed and not stay up late to do the job. Sometimes this can frustrate the teacher, but they need to know that my bottom line is my child’s overall health, not a specific task.
I’ve attached a sample email that you will use as a baseline to improve communication with your ADHD child’s teachers.