Do you have a son or daughter with ADHD?
Are you looking for ways you can minimise the disruption to your child’s life?
Here are 12 of our best tips and strategies for parents of children with ADHD:
Advice for Parents of ADHD Kids
Please let us know if you have any tips to add. Our readers will greatly appreciate it!
1. Accept there will be tough times and false dawns
Raising any child is difficult, let alone with the extra trials and tribulations that come with ADHD.
It sounds cliched, but we have to stress the importance of staying positive and taking a balanced approach to both successes and failures.
Understand that your child is not purposefully disobeying you, or trying to make your life difficult. ADHD can be as frustrating for the child suffering from it as it is to his/her parents.
If you stumble across a method or treatment that delivers good results, that’s great. But avoid building up expectations.
Your child will sense your disappointment if he/she falls short of them, which is inevitable as no treatment is perfect. And neither is any child’s behaviour!
2. Take ‘executive’ control of decision-making
One of the primary problems of ADHD is that it causes a deficit in executive function. This means that your child finds it extra difficult to plan ahead, stay organized, stick to tasks, and resist temptations.
This places additional responsibility on you to take control of decision-making and ensure that your child’s mind is not cluttered with nonessential choices.
Take a harmless question like: “What would you like for dinner tonight?”
To the ADHD mind, this requires the foresight to plan ahead, the ability to resist temptation (“McDonalds!”), and then the organization to remember that a decision has been made.
A better tactic is to present choices:
- “This or that?”
- “Shall we go to X or Y?”
We underestimate the executive function that goes in to so many mundane choices in life. This is a skill that is valuable to all of us; not just children with ADHD.
3. Surround yourself with a strong support network
Anybody who tells you that having a kid with ADHD is easy is lying.
Or has a fantastic support group.
The bottom line is that millions of children (and parents) are affected by ADHD. There are huge communities that we can tap in to for tips, guidance and strength, especially during moments of weakness and frustration.
We have rounded up some of the best support groups in our useful resources section.
Explore these and leverage the communities that are ready to help you.
We recommend building a support network both online and offline. For practical reasons, it can be hugely beneficial to have people who understand ADHD as well as you do involved with your child’s life.
4. Ruthlessly seek out structure for your child
Organization and structure.
Two things that every ADHD child can benefit from.
Structure is the product of good organization, and this is a skill that ADHD kids often struggle with.
It’s down to you to introduce predictable structure in to your child’s life. This is a fusion of good discipline, and well thought-out activities (hobbies).
Time and time again we see stories of exercise and social games having a soothing effect on ADHD symptoms.
The best way to integrate these positive routines in to your child’s life is to plan ahead and devise daily structures that promote them. Don’t leave it to chance.
5. Remove ambiguity from your verbal and non-verbal communication
As every parent knows, words can have two meanings depending on your delivery and the perceived ‘mood’ behind them.
One mistake we see is that parents will say all the right things — having read articles such as this — but they won’t necessarily believe them.
Or trust them.
Non-verbal communication is not what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s the image and feelings you project through body language.
Your child is highly intuitive. If she has impulsive symptoms of ADHD, she’s not going to be deterred by words that come without conviction.
We believe non-verbal communication can be improved by simply staying present in the moment. It’s common to respond to questions and poor behavior with auto-pilot responses where the words simply do not match up to the underlying consequences.
This communication will exasperate problems with an ADHD child.
Learn to listen well and pay full attention so that your verbal language matches your non-verbal language.
6. Go big on positive reenforcement
This is a pretty obvious tip, but often overlooked through the exhausted relief that good behavior brings.
If your child behaves well, enforce the behavior by responding positively.
Aim to deliver an incentive towards good behavior.
This doesn’t have to be treats or tangible rewards, it can simply be warm or heartfelt acknowledgment.
7. Create a relaxing predictable environment with less stimulants
Much research has been carried out in to the negative consequences of too much TV on children with ADHD.
The same applies to video games and other 21st century technological thrills.
While there is no escaping that we live in a connected world where distractions are all around us, we can still take control of our own homes.
Aim to reduce the number of ‘mindnumbing’ distractions in the family home: like TV, tablets, etc.
If you can’t do this, tie them to rewards for good behavior.
8. Encourage a healthy diet
What is the best diet for a kid with ADHD?
Take your pick from the hundreds of theories published all over the Internet.
Very little has been proven one way or another in regards to the best diet for an ADHD child.
Some parents recommend steps such as avoiding potential allergens, such as: chemical additives/preservatives (BHT and BHA) milk, eggs, chocolate and salicylates.
Others endorse supplements rich in zinc, magnesium, ginseng and ginkgo.
We have an entire section dedicated to natural remedies for ADHD.
Our advice is to experiment only with a doctor’s approval and with reasonable expectations.
It goes without saying, a traditional healthy diet with fruit, veg and minimal junk foods is recommended to promote a positive lifestyle for your ADHD child.
9. Promote plenty of sleep
ADHD can cause a variety of problems with sleep:
One recent study found that children with ADHD had higher rates of daytime sleepiness than children without ADHD. Another study found that 50% of children with ADHD had signs of sleep disordered breathing, compared to only 22% of children without ADHD. Research also suggests that restless legs syndrome and periodic leg movement syndrome are also common in children with ADHD.
Source: Sleep Foundation
Promoting plenty of sleep for your child can have a positive impact on his/her behavior the next day.
Even those of us without ADHD are noticeably tetchier on a bad night’s sleep!
Achieving this is once again a matter of good routines and structured evenings.
Aim first for the ‘low hanging fruit’:
- No caffeine in the evening
- No ‘screen time’ an hour before bed
- Lighter meals in the evening
- Plenty of exercise during the day
Many parents have seen success with ‘white noise’ generators, which help to block out distraction noises, or CDs that play gentle sounds of a soothing ambience.
A balanced approach to all of the factors above is likely to see the best results.
10. Do not abandon your own wellbeing
As difficult as it is, parents of ADHD children must avoid becoming ‘martyrs’ who abandon their own sense of wellbeing through constant sacrifice.
You cannot deliver the best possible care if you are out on your feet through exhaustion.
Strive to find time to rejuvenate and step back from the troubles of the day.
This is where a strong support network is so important; in allowing us to take moments of respite to regroup and evaluate what is working vs. what isn’t.
Your child will sense if you are on the verge of a mental breakdown, so taking the time to look after your own wellbeing should be seen as an indirect step towards helping your child.
11. Establish good communication between parents (and/or primary carers)
Raising an ADHD child can be tiring and psychologically exhausting.
If there are two parents playing an active role, it is important to share the responsibilities but also the same methods of communication.
If Mom is tearing her hair out with an exhaustive list of routines, hobbies and structure… it won’t help if Dad is happy for the kid to do whatever comes to mind.
It is natural in many families for parents to take differing roles, particularly along the lines of discipline and rewards.
Understand that your child will benefit greatly from consistency in how he is treated by both parents, as well as any primary carers he spends time with.
12. Anticipate the impact of ADHD on brothers and sisters
This often goes forgotten by parents, but it certainly won’t in the family home.
Brothers and sisters of an ADHD child may be prone to jealousy or resentment if they perceive that they are treated differently and evaluated on a different scale of ‘merit’.
This is difficult for parents who naturally want to challenge where possible, and provide extra support where they think it is needed.
But, of course, all children need the same support, regardless of whether they have ADHD.
It is important not to fall in to the trap of setting higher standards for non-ADHD siblings, being less willing to reward them, more eager to punish them, or simply paying less attention to them.
This might not improve ADHD, but it will do wonders for the atmosphere at home.
Do you have any tips for raising a child with ADHD?
We’d love to hear from you!