Tips for Parents of Children with ADHD

What Is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a medical condition. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in their friendships.

ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, can be broken down into 3 types:

  1. Inattention (the child ‘zones out’ a lot or doesn’t seem to listen to what’s going on)
  2. Hyperactivity/impulsivity (e.g. can’t sit still; fidgety; maybe gets into trouble a lot)
  3. A combination of both

 

 

Raising a Child with ADHD

It’s important to remember that raising a child with ADHD may not be similar to raising a child with typical cognitive abilities, as children with ADHD have functionally different brains from those of other children. While your child can still learn what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t, their ADHD makes them more prone to impulsive and hyperactive behaviour. Promoting the healthy development of a child with ADHD means that you may have to change your behaviour and child-rearing style completely, in order to manage your child’s symptoms. Behaviour management therapy is one of the most powerful tools when raising a child with ADHD.

 

Managing Behaviour

There are two basic principles of behaviour management therapy:

  1. Positive reinforcement (Encouraging and rewarding good behaviour); and
  2. Punishment (Removing rewards by following bad behaviour with appropriate consequences).

 

Behaviour management therapy helps your child learn that their actions have consequences and helps you establish rules and guidelines with your child. It is important to have consistency when using this technique, so these principles must be followed in every aspect of a child’s life. Whether at home, school, or a friend’s house, the rules remain the same, as do the consequences for not following them.

 

Aggressive outbursts in children diagnosed with ADHD are very common and it’s important that you deal with it in a swift, yet calm and controlled manner. If the outburst is mild, try to ignore it and understand that this is a way that children with ADHD express themselves and release their pent-up energy. If the outburst has become too serious to ignore, an age-old approach to discipline is for everyone to take a “time-out.” It is a simple, yet effective way to calm both you and your child down. “Time-out” should be a few moments or minutes of time just for reflection, in relative or complete isolation, where your child can think about their negative behaviour, but it should not be used as an excuse to abuse your authority- the most effective time out is when you BOTH think about how to reapproach the situation that caused the flare up in the first place to start over with a more solution-oriented approach.

 

There are lots of other ways to manage the symptoms of ADHD for your child if it all becomes a bit overwhelming to manage at home.

 

In some cases, it’s important that a child with ADHD be seen by a medical professional. Doctors may prescribe medication that helps activate the brain’s ability to pay attention and use more self-control. If that is something the parent doesn’t want, then therapists can help by working with your child on social skills. Children with ADHD often fall behind their peers when it comes to developing social, emotional, and planning skills and all these skills can be taught and developed by a trained therapist. Finally, it is important that you and your child’s teachers have an open line of communication and a plan in place for providing your child with additional support in school. Don’t be afraid to reach out and use the resources that are available to you!

 

A list of more “do’s” when raising a child with ADHD

  1. Create structure by making a routine for your child to stick to every day.
  2. Break up all tasks into small, manageable pieces.
  3. Make sure that your child has a place to unwind that is organised and neat, and do your best to create a consistently clean environment for them. Too much clutter can overwhelm your child.
  4. Limit media and technology consumption and increase time spent engaging in activities outside the home to release pent-up energy and keep their minds occupied.
  5. Regulate your child’s sleeping patterns as a lack of sleep can exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD.
  6. Make sure your child has a healthy, balanced diet. Stay away from processed foods and snacks that are high in sugar. Also, consider a multi-vitamin for additional support.
  7. Ask your child to verbalise their thoughts and feelings when the urge to behave negatively arises.
  8. Give your child lots of praise when they are engaging in good behaviour and stay positive for them because children with ADHD can be under a lot of stress.
  9. Remember that you’re only human. It’s okay to take a break when you become overwhelmed or frustrated with your child. Schedule alone time and calm yourself, because you cannot help your child unless you’re in a healthy state of mind.
  10. Connect with other parents that have children with ADHD. They’ll understand better than anyone what you are currently going through and they may have their own tips and techniques to help you.

 

Major “Don’ts” for managing a child with ADHD

  1. Don’t get overwhelmed by the small outbursts that may occur and don’t lash out at your child, as they have a disability that they cannot control.
  2. Don’t let your child with ADHD overwhelm you to the point that you are giving less attention to your other children. Any imbalance in the home will cause a severe decline in your children’s behaviour.
  3. Don’t be negative in front of your child, especially don’t say negative things about your child in front of them.
  4. Finally, don’t let the disorder take control of your life. You’re the parent so, ultimately, you make the rules. Be patient and nurturing towards your child, but don’t let yourself be bullied or intimidated by their actions or behaviours.

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