Life with a child with ADD/ADHD can be frustrating and overwhelming, but as a parent there is a lot you can do to help control and reduce negative ADHD symptoms. With the right ADHD parenting strategies, you can help your child overcome daily challenges, channel his or her energy into positive arenas, and bring greater calm to your family. The earlier and more consistently you address your child’s problems, the greater chance they have for success in life.
Helping your child with ADD/ADHD: What you need to know
Children with ADD/ADHD generally can have deficits in executive function, if not properly trained. The ability to think and plan ahead, organize, control impulses, and complete tasks can be more difficult at first. That means you need to take over as the executive, providing extra guidance while your child gradually acquires executive skills of his or her own.
Although the symptoms of ADD/ADHD can be nothing short of frustrating, it’s important to remember that the child with ADD/ADHD who is ignoring, annoying, or embarrassing you is not acting willfully. Kids with ADD/ADHD want to sit quietly; they want to make their rooms clean and organized; they want to do everything their parent says to do—but they don’t know how to make these things happen without the proper guidance.
Having ADD/ADHD can be just as frustrating as dealing with someone who has it. If you keep this in mind, it will be a lot easier to respond to you child in a positive and supportive way. With patience, compassion, and plenty of support, you can manage childhood ADHD while enjoying a stable, happy home.
What is the impact of ADD/ADHD on the family?
Before you can successfully parent a child with ADD/ADHD, it’s essential to understand the impact of your child’s symptoms on the family as a whole. Children with ADD/ADHD exhibit a slew of behaviors that can disrupt family life:
They often don’t “hear” parental instructions, so they don’t obey them. They’re disorganized and easily distracted, keeping other family members waiting. They start projects and forget to finish them, let alone clean up after them.
Children with impulsivity issues often interrupt conversations and demand attention at inappropriate times. They might speak before they think, saying tactless or embarrassing things. It’s often difficult to get them to bed and to sleep. Hyperactive children may tear around the house or even do things that put them in physical danger.
How does ADD/ADHD impact the siblings?
Because of these behaviors, siblings of children with ADD/ADHD face a number of challenges. Their needs often get less attention than those of the child with ADD/ADHD. They may feel they get punished harder when they make a mistake, and their successes may be less celebrated or taken for granted.
Sometimes they may be enlisted as assistant parents, and blamed if the sibling with ADD/ADHD misbehaves under their supervision. As a result, siblings may find their love for a brother or sister with ADD/ADHD mixed with jealousy and resentment.
How does ADD/ADHD impact the parents?
Having a child with ADD/ADHD affects parents in many ways. The demands of a child with ADD/ADHD can be physically and psychologically exhausting. The child’s inability to “listen” can be super frustrating at times. Your child’s behavior and your knowledge of their consequences can make you anxious and stressed. For some, if there’s a basic difference between your personality and that of your child, you may particularly find your child’s behaviors difficult to accept.
The problems can easily begin to negatively impact the parents, individually, or even their marriage, as there may be differences in opinions on what is happening, how to change it, or staying consistent with your child. It is important to work hard as a marriage unit to make sure you are on the same page with your child.
Frustration can lead to anger, and guilt about being angry at your child. In order to meet the challenges of raising a child with ADD/ADHD, you must be able to master a combination of compassion and consistency.
Living in a home that provides both love and structure is the best thing for a child or teenager who is learning to manage ADD/ADHD, and will in turn be the best environment for you and your marriage.
Here are ADHD parenting strategies that we've seen work time and time again:
ADHD Parenting Strategy #1: Stay positive
As a parent, you set the stage for your child’s emotional and physical health. You have control over many of the factors that can positively influence the symptoms of your child’s condition.
The power of a positive attitude is your best asset for helping your child meet the challenges of ADD/ADHD. When you are calm and focused, you are more likely to be able to connect with your child, helping him or her to be calm and focused as well.
Keep things in perspective. Remember that your child’s behavior is related to a disorder, and most of the time it is not intentional. Hold on to your sense of humor. What’s embarrassing today may be a funny family story ten years from now.
Your child's grades do not correlate with his or her success later in life. We get mostly 3rd grade parents coming into our office with great anxiety over their child's grades. We constantly tell all our parents, your kids are going to be okay! You are going to be okay!
ADHD / FastBraiin can lead to great success in life. They learn in their own way and the school system has not done a good job at teaching them. Your kids are bright, we just got to figure out how to channel and develop their intelligence.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #2: Don’t sweat the small stuff and be willing to make some compromises.
One chore left undone isn’t a big deal when your child has completed two others plus the day’s homework. If you are a perfectionist, you will not only be constantly dissatisfied but also create impossible expectations for your ADD/ADHD child.
Your frustration and outbursts to your child are not helping. If you can zoom out and keep the big picture in mind, it will allow you to make some compromises, knowing that you are still heading in the right direction.
Believe in your child. Think about or make a written list of everything that is positive, valuable, and unique about your child. Trust that your child can learn, change, mature, and succeed. Make thinking about this trust a daily task as you brush your teeth or make your coffee.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #3: Take care of yourself.
Eat right, exercise, and find ways to reduce stress, whether it means taking a nightly bath or practicing morning meditation. If you do feel tired or sick, acknowledge it and get help. Exercise and do active activities as a family as a way to be healthy and grow closer together.
As your child’s role model and most important source of strength, it is vital that you live a healthy lifestyle. If you are overtired or have simply run out of patience, you risk losing sight of the structure and support you have so carefully set up for your child with ADD/ADHD.
If you aren't filled up, you won't have anything to give your child. Do what it takes for you to stay healthy and encouraged.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #4: Seek support!
One of the most important things to remember in raising a child with ADD/ADHD is that you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to your child’s doctors, therapists, and teachers. Join an organized support group for parents of children with ADHD.
Groups at FastBraiin can offer a forum for giving and receiving advice, and provide a safe place to vent feelings and share experiences. Use your natural supports. Friends and family can be wonderful about offering to babysit, but you may feel guilty about leaving your child, or leaving the volunteer with a child with ADD/ADHD.
Next time, accept their offer and discuss honestly how best to handle your child.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #5: Give your kids the chance to make wise choices
To help teach kids self-control, Parents must provide ample opportunities for children to be faced with choices of how to respond. Try using a technique called “structured choice,” which gives your child two choices that steer him or her in the right direction.
For example, parents might ask, “Do you want to do your math or science assignment next?” or “Before we can go, your room needs to be picked up. Do you want to start with the clothes on the bed or clear the top of your desk?”
This allows your child to still have the responsibility to get things done in a way that is structured and with less chance for them to feel overwhelmed.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #6: Set structure, but make it pressure-free.
Structure is crucial for FastBraiin children. Set boundaries, expectations, and routines for your child. When these are clear, it leads to success. Children know exactly what they have to do to be successful and they know exactly where the line is that they should not cross. A routine will help a wandering FastBraiin mind anticipate what is going to happen next. This allows them to be more independent and spares you the constant nagging.
Structure involves things like star charts for young children, calendars and planners for older ones, and clear rules and sensible routines, especially at bedtime. Structure helps reduce disorganization and distractibility. Set a consistent time to do homework, with certain privileges only available to the child after they’ve successfully completed their assignment.
Another tip, seek out your child’s teachers to help create a consistent homework routine. It’s best to avoid imposing pressure. So what does pressure-free structure look like, it includes not using threats or unreasonable deadlines and punishments that contribute to hostility, fear, or drama.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #7: Use reasonable consequences for rule-breaking
Involve your child. Parents, ask your child what should the consequences be if he or she breaks a rule. This helps children create commitments that they can actually own. In addition, create and consistently enforce positive consequences for positive behaviors and negative consequences for negative behaviors. This level of disciplining ADHD children helps significantly.
A system of rewards and consequences helps your child recognize the differences between positive and negative behaviors, and helps the child to develop the ability to make a positive choice.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #8: Expect rule-breaking, and don’t take it personally
It’s in your child’s job description to occasionally break the rules. When your child breaks the rules, correct him the way a police officer gives you a ticket. He doesn’t take it personally or groan or yell; I can’t believe you did that again! Why do you do this to me? Just like the police should be, be respectful, consistent, and matter-of-fact.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #9: Advocate for your child when appropriate
Certain accommodations might be necessary for your child because of his or her ADHD. However, you still want to encourage kids to cultivate their own abilities. Always remember to stand up for your child’s right for an accommodation like talking books, but encourage and expect them to learn to read fluently, giving them time, attention, a tutor, and most especially, your belief that they can succeed.
Stay involved with your child’s school; look for concessions that may be available to them that could help them. Just be mindful that you also want your child to grow up confident in his or her own ability, so don't overdo it, they need proper space to grow and develop their wings.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #10: Avoid silencing a headstrong child
One of the mistakes parents can make is trying to turn a spirited, willful child into one that never questions authority and accepts all that is said (just because I said so) as a parent. Although it can be hard, you have to learn to accept that some children will protest and talk back.
Parents must set a limit that on the one hand realizes that children need at least some way to express their frustration, while still enforcing reasonable standards and rules. This is a tricky process that involves trial and error.
Learn to pick your battles wisely.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #11: Remember your child isn’t misbehaving on purpose
Parents of kids with ADHD subconsciously make assumptions about why their child is misbehaving. In reality, children are very goal-directed and do what they do with the hope of obtaining an outcome they seek. This usually pertains to something they want to do or get, or something they are trying to avoid like chores, homework or bedtime.
With this understanding, it can allow you to have some grace for your child, and to not take misbehaving personally. Children can be rebellious, and they are, but it's not personal, they are misbehaving because they have the wrong grid for where they are placing their goal.
Your job is, yes to help them learn to obey your word because it's your word, but it's also to help them understand why you are asking them to do certain tasks, and helping cultivate their reward seeking in the right direction.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #12: Be persistent
Children with ADHD may require more chances and exposure to consistent consequences in order to learn from that experience. Trying a technique one or two times with no results doesn’t mean that it’s completely ineffective. You just might have to keep trying.
Every concern can’t be fixed at once. Just remember it’s important for parents to prioritize what situations seem most important, and start with those, temporarily letting go of the less important problems.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #13: Educate yourself about ADHD and attention
Knowing how ADHD symptoms affect your child is extremely important. You might think that your child is being stubborn or behaving a certain way on purpose, but these actions may be symptoms of ADHD. It is always a good practice for parents also to educate themselves about ADHD’s causes and child development.
The other important part is educating yourself about attention and learning when your child is at his or her peak of productivity. Consider the following scenario: Your child won’t finish his homework, so you firmly tell him that he’s grounded if he doesn’t start making improvements now. Instead of improving, he has a meltdown.
The problem is his arousal level was too high at the time of being reprimanded. Deep down, he was scared to put something on the paper, because he anticipated it wasn’t going to be good enough, like too sloppy, poor spelling, not as polished as his siblings’ or his classmates’ work. The heightened arousal caused him to feel overwhelmed, so he needed a less forceful approach to focus on his task.
Knowing when your child can concentrate best helps you better place assignments into manageable steps, suggest breaks to decrease tension, alternate interesting and boring tasks, and keep his brain chemicals pumping with a steady stream of just the right amount of stimulation.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #14: Help your child adjust to change
Children with ADHD have a difficult time with transitions, a brain function that involves adjusting to change or switching cognitive processes, especially if they’re hyper-focused on an activity. We must emphasize the importance of giving your child, no matter how busy you are, the time and information they need to mentally adjust for big changes.
Some changes are big like vacations, guests or a new babysitter, and others are small like stopping one activity to begin the next. The more you can prep your child for what is about to take place, the better. Your child needs to be able to understand change is about to happen. Without a proper heads up, your child can have difficulty with the transition leading to poor behavior and attitude.
For instance, when you get back from vacation, the night before, review your child’s routine with him or her to help them ease back into the normal daily routine.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #15: Focus on your child’s strengths
Instead of pointing out what your child can’t do, focus on what they can. Keep reminding yourself about your child’s resourcefulness, creativity, and individuality. The same self-determination that drives you nuts today will empower your child tomorrow.
Picture your child as a tireless entrepreneur, attorney, athlete, artist, or doing any work he feels passionate about. It’s best for parents to try to strike a balance. Don’t deny his special needs, and don’t define him by them, either.
Figure out what your child loves to do and find ways for your child to pursue his/her passions in that area.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #16: Don’t over criticize yourself
Raising a child with a disability, whose symptoms include impulsivity, defiance and limited self-control is one of the most challenging tasks any person will ever attempt. So acknowledge that you’re working hard, and do not feel like a failure. You are a hero!
You did not cause your child to behave this way, but you can make a difference in redirecting the behaviors the right way. When you make mistakes, just as you would like for your child, you also need to learn from mistakes and keep persevering.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #17: Celebrate being a parent and being with your child
Parenting kids with ADHD can feel like a frustrating task. Don’t let ADHD rob you of the joy of being a parent. Your family can still do anything they could if the diagnosis never existed. You may just have to add a little more structure and routine in it.
When you are at your end, remember the good times. Remember cradling your child as a newborn. Remember positive family times. Think of all the positive qualities and memories your child provides for you and the family.
These moments are precious gifts. Be thankful for them. And look to spot and celebrate all the little or big moments of success with your child. As you begin learning to celebrate, you will find more and more to celebrate. And the more you celebrate, the more your child will begin to seek those behaviors that cause the celebration.
ADHD Parenting Strategy #18: Determine what tasks your child has to complete each morning before leaving for school
Make a daily and weekly chart listing these tasks in the order they should be done. Print the chart and allow your child to follow it independently. You child will enjoy the sense of completion in checking off the items (or using stickers). You can also make a checklist for after school and bedtime routine. The goal is to encourage independence and save the stresses that often come when timeliness is a priority.
I hope these strategies will off you and your family the help you are seeking. Don't give up. You can do this! ADHD parenting is a serious challenge, but you can do it.