Helpful Tips for Parents of a Child with ADHD
Parenting a child with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be a significant challenge. However, it doesn’t mean that family life has to be frustrating or unrewarding. There are many things you can do to decrease the impact of your child’s ADHD. Living in a home that provides both love and structure is the best thing for a child or teenager who is learning to cope with the different symptoms of ADHD.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is thought to be a neurobehavioral disorder usually diagnosed in childhood. However, ADHD can continue into the adult years.
Typical features of ADHD include impulsivity, inattention, and/or over-activity. Failure to listen to instructions, inability to organize oneself and work tasks, fidgeting with hands and feet, talking too much, inability to stay on task, leaving projects, chores and work tasks unfinished, and having trouble paying attention to and responding to details are the primary symptoms of ADHD. Although individuals may have both inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, many individuals predominantly display one symptom more than another.
What causes ADHD?
No one knows for sure what causes ADHD, although many studies suggest that genes play a large role. Like many other behavioral difficulties, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors, and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and the social environment might contribute to ADHD.
How is ADHD treated?
Many of the available treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning. Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments. Much like children with the disorder, adults with ADHD are treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of treatments.
Tips for Parents of Children with ADHD
Here are some helpful tips to help you parent your child with ADHD.
- Parents often struggle with morning routines with children. Providers often recommend checklists or task lists for children – make it interactive, where kids can earn stars every two to three days and earn extra time for a preferred activity. Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement to motivate your child.
- Provide multiple opportunities for movement breaks, especially during the winter months. This can be really helpful for kids with ADHD. Consider designating a corner in the house for 5 min movement breaks (“jumping corner”) to burn off extra energy they have.
- Structure and consistency is critical for children with ADHD. They are much more likely to succeed when tasks occur in predictable patterns and in predictable places. Your job is to create and sustain structure in your home, so that your child knows what to expect and what they are expected to do. A schedule prior to and after school is important. Set a schedule for homework time, family dinner and afterschool activities – make it routine.
- Winding down before bed is often difficult for children with ADHD. Consider a bedtime routine including bath/shower time, reading a book, playing a screen-free game (Uno, Goldfish, etc), remove TV’s/game consoles from bedrooms to a central location and consider an electronic zone in a common area (living room, kitchen) so children aren’t distracted by their cell phone in the middle of the night.
- When it comes to consequences for misbehavior, most experts will say consequences should be clearly spelled out in advance and occur immediately after your child has misbehaved. Another frequent recommendation is to try time-outs and the removal of privileges as consequences for misbehavior. It may also be helpful to remove your child from situations and environments that trigger inappropriate behavior. When your child misbehaves, ask what he or she could have done instead. Then have your child demonstrate it. And most importantly, always follow through with a consequence.
- Most importantly remember to keep a positive attitude. As difficult as this may be, a smile, positive comment, or other form of positive reinforcement from you can improve the attention, concentration and impulse control of your child with ADHD. In fact, try to remember that for every one negative interaction or comment you give to your child, you should provide 5 positive statements for your child. In other words, do your best to focus on giving positive praise for appropriate behavior and task completion, while giving as few negative responses as possible to inappropriate behavior or poor performance on an assigned task.