All of us who work with children and adolescents with ADHD in schools and colleges know full well how demanding they can be and the impact they make on our time and energy.

However when you collectively add up the actual amount of time that a child spends in school it roughly equates to about 17% of the year.

This means therefore that the child will be spending approximately 83% of the time at home. Although a large chunk of that will include sleeping, please spare a thought for the parents and carers.

Parents although they will have a lot on their plate with managing a child with ADHD  (especially during the holidays) along with siblings and running the house still tell me however, that their greatest worry and stress is what happens at school.

As a result in this article we will explore some of the ways that schools can work proactively with parents and carers in order to work in partnership on behalf of supporting children and adolescents with ADHD.

Maintaining a consistent approach towards a child’s behaviour at home and at school can help the parents/carers and teachers to develop a better understanding of the strengths and challenges associated with a child’s behaviour. It can also prove to the child that teachers and parents talk to each other, and that there is a `united front’ and agreement on important rules and expectations.

Therefore some common approaches to managing a child’s behaviour that can work at home and at school can include the following:

  • Being consistent. This can help a child to understand that the same expectations regarding behaviour apply to both home and school.
  • Reinforcing positive behaviour. Positive feedback for good behaviour at home or school, no matter how small the action may be, can encourage a child to repeat the behaviour as well as improve their self-esteem.
  • Providing clear consequences for bad behaviour. Consequences for bad behaviour should be consistent and relevant to the situation, as well as communicated clearly so that a child understands the implications of their actions.
  • Acting immediately. Both good and bad behaviour needs to be acted on as soon as it occurs so that a child can make a clear link between the behaviour and the reaction from the teacher or parent/carer.
  • Giving feedback. Frequent feedback on all aspects of a child’s behaviour can help them to understand positive and negative consequences and exactly what they have done to elicit the reaction.
  • Ensuring repetition. Children with ADHD need repetition to help reinforce the consequences of good and bad behaviour and this can be more effective when done both at school and at home.
  • Changing rewards and consequences as needed. Be flexible and change the rewards and consequences for behaviour over time to help stimulate the child and prevent situations becoming predictable.
  • Keeping going. It may take some time to change certain aspects of a child’s behaviour either at home or at school so keep persisting for a long term change in behaviour.

Common approaches to managing the child’s behaviour can work more effectively if there is a strong and positive relationship between the parents/carers and the school with regular feedback from both parties. This can quite simply help both the parents/carers and school to:

  • Share what is and isn’t working successfully
  • Set and re-set behaviour targets for the child as appropriate
  • Ensure greater consistency of approach for a greater response
  • Build a stronger relationship

Feedback can also be improved by:

  • Agreeing the method of communication that works best for the parent/carer and teacher, e.g. telephone, text, email, face-to-face meeting
  • Agreeing how regular the feedback should be and under what circumstances
  • Teachers letting the parents know when positive as well as challenging behaviour occurs. This can help to build a more productive relationship between the parents/carers and teacher
  • Sharing new approaches that have produced positive results.

It is also a good idea to think about creating a plan or a discussion guide is to support a positive and proactive meeting between parents/carers and teachers to agree a consistent approach to managing behaviour at home and at school.

There are obviously be individual and joint targets for parents/carers and teachers and but it is prudent to set out some areas for discussion in advance.

Below I have listed some suggestions for both teachers and parents to consider for a proactive meeting:

For teachers

  • What you consider to be the priorities for good behaviour by the specific child
  • How you could manage the expectations of the parents/carers in terms of improving the child’s behaviour consistently over time
  • Behaviour targets that could be agreed with the child’s parents
  • How often you could provide feedback to the parents/carers and when is appropriate
  • Are there particular areas of the child’s behaviour that should be focused on, based on how the child behaves at home?
  • When attending a previous school, did the child behave very differently at home and at school?
  • What are the parents’ main challenges in terms of managing the child’s behaviour at home?
  • What have been the main areas of focus for previous teachers in managing the child’s behaviour?
  • What have been the main areas of focus for previous teachers in managing the child’s behaviour?

For Parents

  • Your expectations of the school in maintaining a consistent approach to managing your child’s behaviour
  • The priorities for maintaining a consistent approach to managing your child’s behaviour
  • How often you would like to receive feedback on your child’s behaviour from the school
  • Information you could provide to help agree a consistent approach with the school
  • How you successfully manage good and challenging behaviour at home and how this might apply in school.

Also you may want to consider listing questions that you want to discuss at the meeting, e.g.:

  • What common approaches can be agreed with the school in terms of managing your child’s behaviour?
  • Has the school any experience of working with other parents/carers to maintain a consistent approach to managing a child with ADHD’s behaviour?
  • What does the school consider the most challenging aspects of maintaining a consistent approach between home and school environments?
  • What information could be provided to help maintain a consistent approach?
  • How often can feedback on your child’s behaviour take place and what is the best way to communicate?
  • How can the school reassure you that it will aim to maintain a consistent approach between home and school?
  • Can you set joint behaviour targets?

Finally it will be important to agree who will do what action, by when:

  • Agree what the teacher and parents will do, e.g. provide further information that can help the school
  • Agree a timeline for these actions to be carried out
  • Agree when the common approach to managing behaviour between home and school will start
  • Agree who will produce a summary of the meeting with action points.

It will not always be easy but it is certainly not impossible as long as schools and parents/carers develop effective communication systems and are working in partnership on behalf of the child and adolescent with ADHD.