Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the mostly commonly diagnosed mental condition for children. Symptoms include: self-focused behaviour, interrupting, troubling waiting their turn, emotional upheaval, fidgeting, problems playing quietly, unfinished tasks and a lack of focus, forgetfulness, etc. Children with ADHD struggle to control impulsive behaviours. Typically, parents will opt for combined behavioural therapy or (depending on the case) medication. Here are 10 tips for parenting when your child has ADHD:
- The importance of structure – your child needs a routine and reasons to keep them incentivised to do these activities. Setting a structure which is well planned with incentives (e.g. x amount of TV time) will encourage them to follow it in the first place. Knowing what to expect is soothing for children with ADHD and it also helps keep their distractions to a bare minimum. Additionally, following a routine teaches responsibility.
- Break tasks down into steps for children with ADHD – tasks can sometimes appear daunting and unattainable. Breaking tasks down into steps will help your child achieve their goals without feeling put-off by the sheer complexity.
- Ask them to think out loud – by voicing their opinion out loud, your child will vocalize their actions and be compelled to think them through. This is a fantastic way to gain insight into their thought patterns and thus understand their behaviour.
- Declutter your surroundings – Minimising distractions in your immediate surroundings is key. Declutter your home and remove objects that your child might fidget with or get distracted by. Monitor factors such as temperature, brightness and sound as your child might be sensitive to any of these.
- Encourage them to exercise – when your child is hyperactive and has bountiful energy, exercise is a great way to release this energy. Exercising releases endorphins (mood-boosting hormones) thus reducing the risk of anxiety and depression. It also promotes concentration and focus and improves sleep patterns. Daily physical activity is thus especially important for children with ADHD.
Limit screen time as children with ADHD are easily distracted – setting limits on screen time is key. This way they can spend their time more productively doing other more engaging activities. Skillmatics write and wipe activity mats are a great place to start!
- Explain and give them choices (but not too many) – No child responds well to a command as opposed to a request. Give reasons for what you’re asking. Explaining your reasoning increases the transparency of your communication and establishes trust. This can help alleviate the worry, tension or confusion that commands often bring. It is critical for there to be mutual respect in your relationship with your child.
- Monitor your own language when communicating – Don’t use negative language with your child. The more you get frustrated with them and vocalize this – the less your child will want to listen to you. Positive and encouraging language will boost their self-esteem and disruptive behaviours will subsequently decrease.
- Pick your battles/let the small things go – This is a coping strategy for you! If every single disruptive behaviour causes you stress and results in a heated argument, it’s not doing you or your child any good. Let the small things go and pick your battles wisely.
- Lean on a therapist for support – Sometimes the solution is a highly-qualified therapist who can help you implement at-home strategies that are designed with your child’s specific needs in mind. Other times, you yourself need therapy because parenting your child has worn you down and you need a place to vent. Both options are completely acceptable – it takes courage to ask for help when you need it.