If your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there is one thing that you can do for him or her that is more important than anything else: Make sure your child knows that there is nothing wrong with them. They are not flawed or bad. They is not inferior.
Your child has just as much worth—and just as much potential—as anyone else. If your child believes this—if this is his bedrock foundation for everything else in life—it will assist him in overcoming self-doubt and managing ADHD will be so much easier for him.
That being said, parenting a child with ADHD is not like traditional childrearing. Depending on the type and severity of your child’s symptoms, normal rules and routines can be nearly impossible to carry out. You will have to modify your behavior and learn to manage your child’s behavior. But there are a number of things you can do that will make life much easier, both for you and for your child.
Consistency and structure are vital. Make a routine for your child and stick to it. A child with ADHD does not always adapt to change and uncertainty as well as others. Knowing what to expect can be calming for your child and can limit challenging behaviors.
The ADHD brain does not lend itself well to thinking of consequences before acting. Therefore, one of your child’s characteristics may be impulsivity, which can lead to challenging or inappropriate behaviors. Such behaviors can present a problem in a school or other setting where you are not present. Your child may face bullying and teasing because of his outbursts, which can leave him feeling lonely and left out, exacerbating the problem he may already have with feeling “different.”
Jill, an intelligent 8-year-old in Grade 3, was experiencing some difficulty with peers at school. With her permission and the permission of the teacher, Mum gave a talk to the class about ADHD. Mum explained that Jill had a type of disability, and while it wasn’t visible, as it would be if Jill were in a wheelchair, ADHD is disabling, nonetheless. She explained that nothing was “wrong” with Jill, but that her brain just functioned differently from others in the class. Mum was glad to answer the children’s questions to help them understand Jill’s challenges.
From that point on, what had previously seemed like odd behaviors became an accepted part of Jill’s personality. The teasing and bullying stopped, and Jill was embraced as an important and welcome member of the class.
It’s important that you establish rules at home, and that they are simple and clear. Just as important are clearly established consequences for breaking the rules. Encourage your child to think of the consequences before he chooses an inappropriate behaviour. When they obeys a rule, be sure to give them positive feedback. And be specific: Don’t just say, “Good job.” Define what it was that you appreciated: “I am so happy that you did your homework before turning on the television.”
Simplify and Organize
The ADHD brain is easily distractible—subject to the so-called “shiny object syndrome.” Regulate television, video games, and computer time as these interfere with concentration.
Simplifying and organizing your home will reduce unnecessary distractions. Provide a quiet place for your child to do homework, read, or take a break from everyday life. Keep your home neat and organized so your child knows where everything is. Chaos and uncertainty are adversarial to the ADHD brain.
Pick Your Battles
Your child’s impulsive and hyperactive behaviour can be challenging. Don’t attempt to correct every problem. Let the smaller things go, as it will alleviate stress—yours and your child’s—in the long run.
Maybe your child finished only two out of three assigned chores. Congratulate him on having focused on the two he did complete, and don’t criticize what he was not able to accomplish.
Pay Attention To The Basics
As with any child anywhere, it’s important that your child get enough nutrition, sleep, and exercise. If they balks at exercise, remind them that many great athletes have ADHD. Search the Internet for “famous people with ADHD.” You’re bound to be surprised—and your child will be encouraged.
Who’s The Boss?
Many parents and children use ADHD as an excuse for poor behavior. ADHD is not the boss here. Your child is the ultimate boss of their behaviour, and are capable of learning appropriate responses to life. It may take some extra work, but it’s important to conquer it.
Many famous people have ADHD and are highly successful. In fact, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison both had ADHD. At no time did Edison say, “I can’t invent the light bulb. I have ADHD.” Neither he nor Einstein—nor thousands of others—ever let their disability get in the way of their accomplishments. Reinforce this to your child. He can do anything he sets his mind to. It may take more concentration and effort, but he is eminently capable of achieving his goals.
As a parent dedicated to helping your child, you will undoubtedly face times of exhaustion. Don’t feel guilty for needing a break! You’re only human. It’s vital that you take time out to rejuvenate and replenish your energy.
And don’t make the mistake of assuming that other parents of kids with ADHD are coping so much better than you are. This is not a contest. Each parent and each child are in unique circumstances. They are doing their best, and so are you.
You’re Not Alone
Your journey with your child with ADHD may seem lonely at times. Rest assured; you are not alone. ADHD is the most prevalent and the most treatable childhood psychiatric disorder in Canada. Though statistics vary somewhat, the Ontario Child Health Study reports that 6.1% of children ages 4 to 16 have ADHD. Likewise, the Quebec Child Mental Health Survey reports a 5.4% prevalence among children ages 6 to 14.
Canada has support groups country wide—both for parents and for their children with ADHD. Check with your child’s health care provider, or contact your local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Learn all you can about ADHD. Each child is different; learn how it affects your child.
What Shall I Tell My Child?
Sometimes parents don’t know how much the child should know about their ADHD. Be honest. Explain to your child that having ADHD is not her fault, that it doesn’t make her a “bad” person, and that she can learn ways to improve the problems it causes. Explain to him that for people with ADHD, the skills that control attention, behavior, and activity don’t come naturally.
Don’t overwhelm your child with information, though. Tell him just enough to satisfy him. As he gets older, he will be able to understand more of the specifics of the disorder.
Be sure to stay in close contact with your child’s primary healthcare provider and keep abreast of new developments in the treatment of ADHD. Individuals under medical supervision, who have undergone Neurofeedback therapy, have been able to reduce some of their medication, strongly reduce impulsivity symptoms and gain control over concentration. Your child deserves the best, and so do you.