How to Help Kids With ADHD Succeed in School

Kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might struggle in the classroom more than other kids. They might have problems studying, taking exams, and paying attention resulting in poor performance in school. They are also likely to develop issues with their self-esteem due to low grades, failing classes, or feeling like they are “different” from everyone else.

Understanding ADHD


can cause your child’s brain to be more active than others. Their brain can often jump into “fight or flight” mode due to dysregulation of emotions and thoughts. When your child is in this “fight or flight” response, they will struggle to use the more thoughtful, decisive parts of their brains. Instead, they will be stuck on “survival” mode. Helping a child with ADHD succeed in the classroom requires regulating these strong emotional responses. 

Being stuck in a vigilant, hyperactive survival mode can create a lot of anxiety in kids with ADHD. Teaching your kid to regulate their anxiety with calming exercises can help them focus and access the parts of the brain involved in learning, decision-making, and planning. 

The Strongest Energy Wins 

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you might be overwhelmed when your child seems to be “bouncing off the walls” or jumping from one topic to the next. Kids with ADHD have a lot of unregulated energy and can bring all their boundless energy into any situation. 

When you get into power struggles with your kids, you might try to “win” by exerting more energy and effort. Screaming matches start, and you attempt to top your kids to get them under control. However, strength is not the same as force, and the strongest energy is the well-regulated, calm person in the room. When you can remain calm amid chaos, you are showing the genuine strength of your energy.

Since the strongest energy wins, being the calm center can bring your child “back down.” Instead of topping your child in a forceful match of energy, you can help your child by co-regulating their emotions. Once your child is calm, you can teach them skills to self-regulate.

Teaching Kids Self-Regulation

No matter how much you say, “calm down!” or “sit still,” your child with ADHD will struggle with self-regulation. Once you regulate yourself, you can set the example and guide your child through self-regulation techniques to help them when you are not around.

Self-regulation will be crucial to your child in the classroom. They might need to exercise these skills daily or when they are facing triggering events, like taking a test, sitting through a lecture in school, or speaking up during class.

Tips for teaching your kids self-regulation:

  • Breathwork is great for regulating ADHD and anxiety:
    • Teach your child to take slow, mindful belly breaths.
    • Take ten deep breaths when attention begins to drift.
  • Self-massage:
    • Rubbing your neck, hands, thighs, or shoulders can help the brain shift focus to the physical stimulation in the moment.
    • Your child can do this while taking mindful breaths.
  • Make use of timers:
    • Set timers to focus on one task for a set amount of time, then take a break.
    • You can start with just a minute or two and build from there.
  • Do “practice runs” at home:
    • You can’t be in the classroom with your child.
    • Treat homework and studying time at home like “training” for when your child is in school.
  • Routines are crucial:
    • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Children with ADHD might need structure and predictability more than their peers.”
    • By having a routine and schedule at home, you can help your child focus because they will not be worried about “what’s happening next?”
  • Focus on physical health:
    • Additionally, from the CDC, “Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with ADHD.” 
    • Developing healthy eating habits, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise will all help your child manage symptoms of ADHD.

Changing the Story of Who You Are

One of the most important things for your child with ADHD is developing healthy self-esteem. Kids with ADHD know that they struggle more than others. They might put themselves down, thinking, “what is wrong with me?” or “why can’t I just be normal?” These thoughts can shape beliefs about how your child views themselves.

For kids with ADHD, you can help them change the story of who they are. ADHD, in many ways, can be a strength, as your child will have much more energy and enthusiasm than most. Your child has a superpower that they just need help regulating to thrive in school and beyond. Once your child understands that they are valued for their gifts, they can change these internal beliefs that shape the way they see themselves.

Kids with ADHD might struggle in the classroom more than other students due to difficulty regulating their active minds. They might feel like they don’t fit in with others, that they are doomed to failure, or that something is wrong with them. Parents of kids with ADHD can help them practice self-regulation skills at home that can be used in the classroom. Sometimes, kids with ADHD deal with self-esteem issues that can lead to behavioral problems. They might use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms or act out in other ways that can be harmful to themselves and others. If your child struggles with their ADHD, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, is here to help. We help kids manage their symptoms at our treatment center while holding academic classes so they aren’t left behind in school due to taking time out for treatment. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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