Parenting a Child with ADHD
If you have a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you know how challenging and overwhelming it can be when your child doesn’t listen, finish what was started, or do what was asked. Not to mention, how physically and mentally exhausting it can be to constantly feel like you have to monitor your child. Despite the difficulties ADHD can cause both you and your child, there are some simple strategies that can help control and reduce the symptoms related to ADHD. If you suspect your child may have ADHD, try the free Heads Up Checkup symptom checker. The following tips can help your child overcome daily challenges and bring greater calm to your family.
Establish structure in your home.
Children with ADHD are more likely to complete tasks when the tasks occur in predictable patterns and in predictable places. By creating and sustaining structure in your home, you are helping your child know what to expect and what they are expected to do. The following strategies can help you create and maintain structure at home:
- Establish simple and predictable rituals for meals, homework, play, and bed. For instance, have your child lay his or her clothing out and his or her school bag packed and placed in the same, accessible spot the night before.
- Place your child’s schedule in a place that he or she can see.
- Place clocks and timers throughout the house, especially in your child’s bedroom. A timer can be especially helpful for homework and transitions. For instance, you can use a timer when you want to transition your child from playtime to bedtime.
- Make sure your child has a specific, regular place for doing homework, away from distractions.
- Build lots of regular breaks into homework time.
- Give your child a special notebook for writing down assignments.
- Help create a quiet, private space for your child to unwind.
- Do your best at organizing your home and help your child understand that everything in your home has its own place.
- Make sure all other caregivers are familiar with your child’s daily routine and everyone adheres to your child’s scheduled routine.
Keep your child busy.
For many children with ADHD, idle time may only exacerbate their symptoms. If this is the case, help keep your child engaged in activities outside of the home that he or she enjoys, such as joining an organized sport, taking an art class, music lessons, or dance. When home, help your child by organizing activities for him or her, such as helping you cook or bake, playing a game with a sibling, or engaging in an art activity. Lastly, try to encourage your child to spend time outside. Recent research has indicated a reduction of ADHD symptoms in children who spend time in nature. Whatever you do, be mindful of your child to make sure he or she does not feel overwhelmed with all the scheduled activities.
Ensure a proper diet.
All children benefit from healthy, regular meals. Try keeping sodas and foods high in sugar outside of the house. Foods high in sugar can affect your child’s mental state, which in turn can exacerbate hyperactivity in your child. Help create healthy eating habits in your child by scheduling nutritious meals and snacks. It is also helpful to make sure your child eats something nutritious at least every three to four hours, whether that is an apple or granola bar.
Encourage good sleep hygiene.
Lack of sleep makes everyone less attentive than usual. However, it can be even more harmful to a child with ADHD. Without adequate sleep, your child can become overstimulated and have trouble falling asleep. Below are some approaches you can take to help create better sleep hygiene in your child:
- Decrease the amount of time your child spends watching television, playing video games, or using a tablet/cell phone. Instead, increase the amount of time your child is engaged in activities and exercises during the day. In fact, it has been shown that exercises lead to better sleep.
- Eliminate caffeine from your child’s diet.
- Have your child engage in quieter activities before bedtime, such as drawing or reading.
- Set a consistent, age-appropriate bedtime for your child and stick with it.
- Help create a calming bedtime ritual for your child, such as a bath or cuddling.
Establish consistent expectations and rules.
Whatever rules you have as a parent should be clear and easy to understand and follow for your child with ADHD. When establishing rules, it is helpful to make direct eye contact, give your verbal directions one at a time, and check for understanding. It is also helpful to have the rules written down and placed in a place that is visible to your child. It is also important to establish rewards and consequences and explain what will happen when the rules are followed and when they are broken. Try to stick with the rules and follow through every time with a reward or consequence. Look below for some help in creating a reward and consequence system in your home.
- Reward your child with privileges, praise, or activities, rather than with food or toys.
- Change your rewards frequently because children with ADHD get bored if the reward is always the same.
- Make a chart with points or stars awarded for good behavior, so your child has a visual reminder of his or her successes. Place this chart next to where you have your rules in the house.
- Immediate rewards work better than the promise of a future reward, but small rewards leading to a big one can also work.
- Always follow through with a reward.
- Consequences should be spelled out in advance and occur immediately after your child has misbehaved.
- Try time-outs and the removal of privileges as consequences for misbehavior.
- 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.
- Always follow through with a consequence.
It’s also important to note that praise and encouragement are really important for children with ADHD because they usually receive complaints about their behaviors. Simple praise for appropriate behavior or task completion can go a long way for your child with ADHD. Try to be on the lookout for good behavior, even for small achievements that may not be a big deal in your other children.
Granted this may seem impossible some days. But, keep in mind that you set the stage for your child’s emotional and physical health. You can help positively influence your child’s ADHD symptoms. Below are some tips to help keep you staying positive:
- Keep in mind that your child’s behaviors are related to his or her disorder. Often times, he or she is not acting out intentionally.
- Believe that your child can mature, learn, and succeed because with proper help and changes in the house, he or she will.
- Take care of your self both physically and emotionally. Your stress levels can spill over to other aspects of your life, including your energy and patience. Try to eat right, exercise, and engage in activities that help you wind down.
- If you are fortunate enough to have help from family members or friends to babysit your child, use it for yourself. Many parents feel guilty about leaving their child, however, you may find that you feel rejuvenated from just stepping away for a short time. Thus, giving you more energy to handle your child’s behaviors.