Parenting a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD can be challenging. Depending on the child’s symptoms and type of ADHD they have, rule-making and household routines can become almost impossible. It’s easy to get frustrated when it feels like they aren’t listening to you, are daydreaming instead of doing homework, or having meltdowns from a simple change in plans. Instead of giving up or, on the other extreme, screaming, we just need to find ways to cope and help them with some of the behaviors.
ADHD is certainly not going away. In fact the diagnosis of ADHD is increasing and, depending on age, it affects about 7-12 % of children in America, according to the American Psychiatric Association. And about 35% of them develop Anxiety as well. So it’s an issue that parents, educators, and doctors all have to contend with.
ADHD has several characteristics and not everyone has all three, or even the same symptoms. Your child may be impulsive interrupting people, unable to wait easily and even having anger issues that they don’t have control over. It’s also characterized by impulsivity, a lack of focus, and distractibility. Honestly, many parents don’t realize that these behaviors are part of ADHD. It may seem like a child is just misbehaving which can leave parents feeling stressed, frustrated, or disrespected.
So when it comes to managing ADHD, parenting is as important as any other part of ADHD treatment. The way parents respond can make ADHD better — or worse. Some of the ways we can help is by being informed and involved. Every child is different. Some kids need to get better at paying attention and listening. Others need to get better at slowing down. Still others need help socializing. Identify the difficulties your child has because of ADHD and what he responds well to and share that information with his teachers.
For many, consistency and routine are really important. The consistency of our rules, the tone of our voice and how we discipline them are all critical components in navigating their disorder successfully. If you’re struggling at home, get some coaching from your child's therapist on ways to respond to your child's behaviors. Kids with ADHD are often extremely sensitive to criticism. Correcting their behavior is best done in a way that's encouraging and supportive rather than punishing.
Here are three strategies that can help you as a parent:
Realize that the ADHD Brain is Different. Researchers and scientists have shown that the brain of children afflicted with ADHD has different characteristics which are responsible for the child’s symptoms.
Once you accept that your child’s brain is simply wired differently, it becomes much easier for you to keep yourself in control when faced with difficult and challenging behaviors.
Imagine for a moment that you have a hundred different things vying for your attention without the self-control to devote your attention to just one of them. That’s literally what it’s like for them. Something grabs their attention and they go after it.This isn’t their fault, so compassion is key—but that doesn’t mean condoning the behavior either.
2. Respond consistently. One of the most important things you can do when parenting your ADHD child is to use consistency when communicating with your child.
This is sometimes tough for parents because this assumes that we’re always going to have the same tone of voice and not allow our own emotional states to affect what we’re trying to communicate.
However, ADHD children need to hear the consistency in what we say and in our tone of voice. We cannot express our expectations about something on just one occasion and expect it to be met. Rather, we need to communicate our expectations on every occasion in the same manner if possible.
For example, instead of saying, “Would you please turn off the TV?,” a more effective approach would be to use the child’s name so they recognize that they are being told to do something. Use this same technique every time you want them to do something.
3. Use incentives and rewards. This is a simple, yet consistent, behavior management approach that encourages appropriate behaviors. This will also let your child begin to learn what’s expected of him and see that he gets rewarded when achieving those expectations.
The basic idea is that the child receives a token for following a demand and then he can turn in those tokens for rewards. Youu can make this as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. Some kids like pennies, buttons, colored popsicle sticks, reward dollars, or any other number of objects as the tokens. Or you may choose not to use tokens at all—simply reward them with something when they have succeeded in something.
The frequency of the rewards that you give out will depend on the nature of your individual child. A child that has immense difficulty following-through, for example, may require more rewards in the beginning to achieve the desired outcome. Perhaps you start with remembering his schoolwork each day, or getting ready for school without a meltdown for a week. Totally up to you. Eventually the idea is to phase out the rewards or to spread them further apart so that the child doesn’t become dependent on them.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about ADHD. It’s important that they understand that having ADHD is not bad, it’s not who they are and they can learn ways to improve the problems it causes. Many kids feel relieved to get the diagnosis because they can then know that they aren’t stupid—having undiagnosed ADHD can be tough on a kid. Teach your child the good stuff that comes of ADHD like compassion, determination and imagination.
Your relationship with your child matters most.
Make time to talk and enjoy relaxing, fun activities with your child — even if it's just for a few minutes. Give your child your full attention, compliment positive behaviors and build resilience by keeping your relationship with your child positive and loving. Parenting is all about connection with each, individual child—whether they have ADHD or not.