If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you know well the frustration and exhaustion that comes with caring for her. Parenting a child with ADHD requires providing lots of additional energy and effort so the child can function successfully. We salute the moms of children with ADHD! May you be given an extra dose of patience, a never-ending supply of coffee, and all the love from those that support you so you can, in turn, give your child the attention and guidance she so desperately needs.
As a counselor that has worked extensively with ADHD kids and their families, I’d like to share with you some of my best tips for regulating inattention and hyperactivity.
1. Provide consistency, structure, and organization
Children with ADHD generally have deficits in executive functioning. This means they lack the natural ability to organize, plan ahead, and manage time. Set your child up for success by creating a responsibility chart, having a special place for belongings, and teaching organization. Allow your child to make choices about what clothing to wear and what breakfast to eat the night before school. Help your child pack her backpack and have it ready to go for the next day. Create routines for after school, bed time, and morning time and stick to them. When you build structure into your child’s day, you let them know what is expected and help them to feel safe and more in control. Post household rules in a place where they are visible and be consistent about rewards and consequences.
2. Give plenty of encouragement
Children with ADHD respond particularly well to positive reinforcement. Many are already aware of their forgetfulness and misbehavior. Since ADHD kids tend to be impulsive and have trouble listening, they are used to getting in trouble. They start to feel badly about themselves and get stuck in patterns of misbehavior. When they see, though, that an adult believes in them or notices particular strengths in them, they feel empowered to take control of their choices. Setting limits is important with these children, but too much discipline makes a child feel hopeless.
3. Create outlets for emotional expression
The brain of a child with ADHD is not wired to properly regulate emotion. The brain can be exercised and strengthened like a muscle though! Your child needs help with processing and dealing with emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and excitement. You are your child’s greatest teacher when it comes to this. You can model healthy ways to deal with emotion like communication, exercise, and prayer or meditation. Listen to your child: get on her level, make eye contact, and communicate understanding with non-judgment. Encourage your child to draw or write about how she feels. Play with your child. Children use play to process how they feel and learn about the world around them.
4. Plan time for both relaxation and stimulation
A balance of relaxation and stimulation is key to managing inattention and hyperactivity. Make sure your child gets plenty of time playing outside and exercising. Physical activity improves concentration, decreases anxiety (which is common in kids with ADHD), and promotes better sleep. Teach your child some practical ways to relax. Children with ADHD need help to know how to calm down and transition from activity to rest. To help your child calm her body, do deep breathing and stretching exercises before bed. Teach your child to imagine a peaceful scene like the beach, the forest, or a happy memory to calm her mind.
5. Teach social skills
Many children with ADHD struggle to know how to interact socially. Provide guidance for your child in this area by doing role plays at home. Practice introducing yourself, listening, and modeling appropriate body language. This can be done with smaller children using toys and creating scenarios during play. Praise your child when she is brave in social situations and when she responds to a friend with kindness and consideration.
6. Strengthen the bond you have
The most important thing you can give your child is you. An ADHD child’s symptoms become worse when they do not receive the love they need from a parent. Give bursts of attention throughout the day. Put down your phone and listen intently, give lots of hugs and kisses, and share encouragement. Take time out of your week to take your child on a date or spend some quality time together at home.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this list, that’s okay! This all sounds like a lot of work, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it really does make! Start small with one of these tips and notice the positive changes you begin to see. Your child will feel better about herself and more confident in her ability to manage her symptoms. And you might just regain a little bit of your own sanity too!
For more information on how to help a child or family member with ADHD or another learning disorder, www.additudemag.com has some excellent resources!