Raising a child with ADHD means parents need to adopt different approaches to parenting. Parents must accept the fact that children with ADHD have functionally different brains from those of other children. While children with ADHD can still learn what is acceptable and what isn’t, their disorder does make them more prone to impulsive behavior.
Fostering the development of a child with ADHD means that you will have to modify your behavior and learn to manage the behavior of your child. Medication may be the first step in your child’s treatment, and behavioral techniques for managing a child’s ADHD symptoms must always be in place. By following these guidelines, you can limit destructive behavior and help your child overcome self-doubt.
- DO define the rules, but allow some flexibility. It’s important to consistently reward good behaviors and discourage destructive ones, but you shouldn’t be too strict with your child. Remember that children with ADHD may not adapt to change as well as others. You must learn to allow your child to make mistakes as they learn. Quirky behaviors that aren’t detrimental to your child or anyone else should be accepted as part of your child’s individual personality, however.
- DO manage aggression. Aggressive outbursts from children with ADHD can be a common problem. Time-outs are an effective way to calm both you and your child. Time-outs should be explained to the child as a period to cool off and think about the negative behavior they have exhibited. Try to ignore mildly disruptive behaviors as a way for your child to release his or her pent-up energy. Destructive, abusive, or intentionally disruptive behavior should be punished.
- DO create structure. Make a routine for your child and stick to it every day. Establish rituals around meals, homework, playtime, and bedtime. Simple daily tasks, such as having your child lay out her clothes for the next day, can provide essential structure.
- DO break tasks into manageable pieces. Try using a large wall calendar to help remind a child of their duties. Color coding chores and homework can keep your child from becoming overwhelmed with everyday tasks and school assignments. Even morning routines should be broken down into small tasks.
- DO simplify and organize your child’s life to limit distractions. Create a special, quiet space for your child to read, do homework, and take a break from the chaos of everyday life. Try to keep your home neat and organized so that your child knows where everything goes. This helps reduce unnecessary distractions.
- DO encourage exercise and regulate sleep patterns. Physical activity burns excess energy in healthy ways and helps a child focus their attention on specific movements. This may decrease impulsivity, help to improve concentration, decrease the risk for depression and anxiety, and stimulate the brain in healthy ways. While bedtime may also be an especially difficult for children suffering from ADHD, lack of sleep exacerbates inattention, hyperactivity, and recklessness. To help them get better rest, eliminate stimulants like sugar and caffeine and decrease television time. Establish a healthy, calming bedtime ritual.
- DO encourage out-loud thinking. Children with ADHD can lack self-control, which can cause them to speak and act before thinking. Ask your child to verbalize their thoughts and reasoning when the urge to act out arises. It’s important to understand your child’s thought process in order to help him or her curb impulsive behaviors.
- DO take breaks for yourself. No on can be supportive 100% of the time. It’s normal to become overwhelmed or frustrated with yourself or your child. Just as your child will need to take breaks while studying, you’ll need breaks as well. It’s also good to take time to breathe, relax, and collect your thoughts before attempting to pacify your child. The calmer you are, the calmer your child will become.
- DON’T sweat the small stuff. Be willing to make some compromises. If your child has accomplished two of the three chores you assigned, consider being flexible with the third uncompleted task. It’s a learning process and even small steps count.
- DON’T get overwhelmed and lash out. Remember that your child’s behavior is caused by a disorder. ADHD may not be visible on the outside, but it’s a disability and should be treated as such. When you begin to feel angry or frustrated, remember that your child can’t “snap out of it” or “just be normal.”
- DON’T be negative whenever possible. It sounds simplistic, but take things one day at a time and remember to keep it all in perspective. What is stressful or embarrassing today will fade away tomorrow.
- DON’T let your child or the disorder take control. Remember that you are the parent, and you establish the rules for acceptable behavior in your home. Be patient and nurturing, but don’t allow yourself to be bullied or intimidated by your child’s behaviors.
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