Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder found in many people of all ages and can cause significant problems in school, work, and social settings. People with ADHD often have trouble paying attention, staying organized, controlling impulsive behavior, listening to and following directions, or sitting still. Parents can help children with ADHD manage their behavior and be more successful at school and at home with the following tips. It will give you hope to know that there are many successful CEOs and other successful adults who had ADHD as a child. They may still have adult ADHD, but have learned to manage the condition.
Remember that although your child’s behavior can be frustrating at times, it is related to the disorder and is not intentional. Your ability to be compassionate while providing structure for your child will go a long way toward helping your child learn to manage his or her behavior. While at times you may not be able to control or change your child’s behavior, you can teach them how to manage the condition.
Take care of yourself
Exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, and get regular preventive health care. Don’t feel guilty about taking breaks from your child once in a while or about accepting help from others. You might also consider joining a support group to meet other parents who have children with ADHD. The group would have helpful suggestions and also what not to try. Your child’s doctor would be a helpful resource in finding those support groups in your community.
Set aside special time for your child
Constant negative feedback can erode a child's self-esteem but a daily dose of TLC can help strengthen your child's self-worth and confidence. By the time many children are diagnosed, their self esteem has already taken a hit from their peers, teachers, coaches, and others.
Create and post a schedule
Children with ADHD need a consistent routine. It’s helpful for them to know exactly when a new activity will start and stop. Always use specific numerical times. For example, if you want your child to do homework for 30 minutes, give him or her the start and end time such as "Work on your homework from 6:00 to 6:30." When possible, let your child have some control over their schedule, but they still need to be specific with a start and end time.
Place the schedule where your child will see it regularly. As much as possible, try to discuss schedule changes with your child ahead of time. Set times for:
- Waking up
- Sports or artistic activities
- Television or social media time
- Other significant activities
Keep the house rules simple and explain to your child what will happen if the rules are not followed. Include rewards for good behavior as well, such as praise or a special activity. Change rewards often to keep them enticing. Follow the rules you established, including following through on the rewards and consequences you’ve laid out. Structure helps children feel safe. Never make a promise that you don't know you can keep. It's much better to say "I don't know" rather than always answering yes.
Make sure your child understands your directions
Children with ADHD often get distracted and may not hear all of your directions. Before giving instructions, make sure you have your child’s attention. Keep your instructions simple and specific and use a calm voice. Have your child repeat what you’ve said to ensure that he or she heard you and understood. For difficult tasks, give only one or two directions at a time.
Tell your child what you want
Tell your child what you want rather than what you don't want. Reward your child regularly for good behavior. Use phrases like "I like it when you " or "I see that you are really trying hard to be patient. I appreciate that." Although sometimes it may be difficult to do, find one positive thing your child did that day and tell them.
Praise your child’s efforts at completing tasks or following rules. The little things should be recognized too, such as getting dressed on time and closing doors quietly.
Create a homework zone
Create a distraction-free area for homework without other people or pets so your child can better focus. Make sure to provide plenty of breaks for your child and help with breaking up assignments into smaller tasks if needed.
Keep in touch with teachers
Attend all parent-teacher conferences and ask for an honest assessment of your child’s behavior and performance – both in social settings and in school work. Ask for more regular updates if needed. Make use of the school guidance counselor or other school resources for ADHD.
Help with getting ready
School mornings may be very hectic and difficult, so get ready the night before by laying out school clothes and getting the book bag ready. Help with organizing their backpack with labeled folders such as “permission slips to be signed”, “tonight’s homework” and “papers that parents need to sign and be returned by the child”. It may also be helpful to get into the habit of writing down “plan for the day” so they know what to do and when.
Encourage your child to be active
Sports and other physical activities help children with ADHD use their extra energy in a healthy way.
Keep your child’s schedule busy, but balanced
While too much downtime can be problematic for children with ADHD, they can be distracted more easily if they have too many demanding extracurricular activities. Make sure activities are appropriate for your child’s age and abilities. Establish a rule that if the child wants to participate in a particular sports or arts activity, they have to complete the full season. This helps the child to understand making commitments, being responsible for completing things, and contributing to the team process.
Identify your child's strengths
Build upon these strengths with positive affirmations and praise so that your child has a sense of pride and accomplishment.
American Academy of Family Physicians. February 2014. “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” Accessed 3/20/17. familydoctor.org/condition/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd
American Academy Pediatrics. November 2015. “Adapting a Style of Communication with Your Child with ADHD.” Accessed 3/14/17. healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/adhd/Pages/Adapting-a-Style-of-Communication-with-Your-Child-with-ADHD.aspx
Helpguide.com. December 2016. “ADHD Parenting Tips.” Accessed 3/14/17. helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/attention-deficit- disorder-adhd-parenting-tips.htm
National Institute of Mental Health. “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” Accessed 3/20/17. nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml