ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder which impacts children and adults in a number of ways. It is typically characterised by behaviours such as inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, which may lead to persistent and often frustrating challenges in daily life. For parents of children with ADHD, helping them to manage with the symptoms can feel challenging if they’ve not accessed professional support.
At Psymplicity, our clinicians have years of experience in assessing, diagnosing and treating ADHD in both children and adults. In this post we will detail some of our ADHD parenting tips, discuss their application and explain their importance, before we suggest the pathways for you to access additional support.
ADHD has the potential to have a significant impact on your child’s life, and they often need some help in managing the symptoms. You can find our clinically-approved ADHD parenting tips and strategies below:
Much is said and written about ADHD across various media outlets, though unfortunately, not all of it is true. It’s important to separate quality sources from misinformation. Aim to be a proactive student of ADHD, and take responsibility for the information you pay attention to. This could be through conversations with a spouse, leaflets on the coffee table or online videos playing in the background, so be aware of the information your child is passively exposed to, so that you can help them to understand the disorder – in the right way.
Educate yourself using reputable sources such as CHADD, ADDitude or our own blog, and disregard untrustworthy information from self-proclaimed ‘authorities’. Any source claiming to ‘cure’ or ‘prevent’ ADHD is likely to be misleading. Furthermore, avoid blaming yourself for your child’s ADHD. Challenging behaviours stemming from ADHD are not the result of parenting failures, but a reflection of your child’s neurodiversity. Learning from reputable sources that are supported by scientific findings can help you create a helpful, nurturing environment for your child.
Access to support and a constructive learning environment are beneficial in helping children with ADHD achieve success. In the same way that a visually-impaired child would need certain accommodations to help them manage in the classroom, children with ADHD need educators who understand the best ways to help them focus. Try to represent your child educationally, and push away shame or embarrassment about raising the issue. It’s often helpful to communicate with teachers and other caregivers to ensure everyone understands the necessary frameworks to support your child. This helps bring consistency and organisation to your child’s world.
While support from those around you is important, it is also important not to blame others for the challenges and difficulties your child faces. While other people’s actions can positively or negatively impact your child, blaming a teacher’s perceived lack of control, or a family member’s overly permissive attitude, might suggest to your child that they are not responsible for their own actions, and can block you, the child and others from learning about their ADHD and appropriate accommodations that can make a real difference.
While ADHD can present some challenges, there are many aspects of ADHD that can be considered strengths. Encouraging and celebrating these strengths or skills can help your child build confidence and grow into their uniqueness. For example, you may find that while your child has difficulty staying focussed on classroom tasks, they have exceptional ability with sports, or a remarkable creative streak. Focus on those strengths, and recognise your child’s achievements with positivity.
Similarly, it’s important to tell your child that you love and support them, no matter what. Try not to criticise or correct them with things they struggle with, as this could negatively impact their self-perception. Instead, nurture and support your child as an individual, collaboratively work with them, support them and highlight the successes of their unique abilities.
Keep in mind that not all of your child’s challenging behaviour is the result of ADHD. Just like all children, they are learning about the world and developing as a person. It can be helpful to read about childhood development: you might find that you and your child are dealing with behavioural challenges which are common among all children, and you’ll find lots of resources online to help manage these behaviours.
Whilst it’s true that medication can be beneficial in helping a child deal with the difficult symptoms of ADHD, it is by no means a catchall ‘solution’. Try to stay out of the mindset where a bad day necessitates more medication or a higher dosage, unless this has been advised by a medical professional.
For some, medication is the preferred and most effective way to help them with managing their ADHD symptoms. However, it is often even more effective when used in conjunction with therapy or coaching, as the patient can learn about their ADHD, why they experience certain symptoms and how to make important behavioural changes. It’s also important to note that over reliance on medication could give your child the impression that their behaviour is something beyond their control, dependent on external influences.
As a parent, you are one of the most influential figures in your child’s life, so aim to be a good role model. This involves thinking about your words and actions and exercising self-control when necessary. Your child will see this and learn from it. We know it’s not always possible to exercise self-control over your emotions, and from time-to-time you may shout or respond in a way that isn’t helpful for your child to learn from – but that’s okay. Let your child know that you have reflected, and it’s normal to lose control sometimes. Talk to them, explain what happened, apologise and let them know how you will try to control yourself better next time. This is a great way of demonstrating to your child that even when we do engage with negative behaviours, we can learn from them.
In addition, don’t underestimate the power of positive feedback. Praise your child when they show helpful behaviours or you feel they managed a situation well. Receiving this positive reinforcement from you will be rewarding in itself, and increases your child’s motivation to behave similarly in the future. It emphasises the behaviours you want to see, rather than focussing energy on those you don’t.
Make windows in your day to have special, bonding time with your child. This could be visiting the park, doing arts and crafts, reading a book or playing a game. Positive interactions will help your child develop their sense of self-worth, and you’ll have the chance to create special memories together.
Constructive discipline involves guiding your child’s behaviour by understanding their emotional and psychological needs. Punishment, on the other hand (though it is sometimes the initial instinctive response to wrongdoing), can hinder your relationship with your child. Using a constructive style of discipline can help children to grow and learn from their mistakes.
If your child engages with an undesirable behaviour, constructive discipline would involve talking to them first. Discussing with them what you have noticed, asking them about their feelings and reasons for engaging with the behaviour, and also explaining how you are feeling can help. Listening to your child and allowing them to offer their side of the story will not only help them to feel heard and trusted, but will also give you an opportunity to better interpret your child’s behaviour. Following this discussion, you should take steps to help your child rectify any mistakes they have made, and understand the reasons behind doing this. This can help them to develop problem solving skills and empathy.
Conversely, more traditional parenting which involves punishment for undesired behaviour can be unhelpful and potentially damaging. For example, if you leave your child for 15 minutes to do some homework and come back to find them drawing pictures or playing with their pencil case, it may not be the case that they are showing defiance, but rather finding it difficult to maintain focus – a common symptom of ADHD. In a situation like this, it is often more productive to gently remind your child of the task at hand, and redirect their attention.
Helping your child manage ADHD symptoms can be challenging at times, and attempting to do so alone only makes it more difficult. In addition, you open yourself to the risk of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.
However, there are support systems around you and we would strongly recommend that you use those resources. Perhaps you have a family member who can help out with activities one night a week, or there may be an awareness group in your community. Just remember that it is most helpful for support and behavioural frameworks to be consistent across all caregivers.
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