Some hype in the media has been made about an “over-diagnosis” of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But parents with children who actually have ADHD are left scratching their heads — why are some people demonizing their child’s disorder? Would a journalist go after pediatric cancer with the same gusto?
I don’t have the answer to those kinds of questions, but I do have some tips to share with parents of children with ADHD. Raising a child with ADHD presents unique opportunities and challenges. But it’s the challenges that can sometimes throw parents for a loop.
It can be a challenge raising a child on the best of days. So raising a child with a mental disorder such as attention deficit disorder makes things that much more difficult for most parents. Kids and teens with ADHD have their own set of skills and deficits, which parents should be aware of to better help foster their child’s development.
1. Keep the rules clear.
Children with ADHD often have trouble keeping focused on a task, and may exhibit hyperactivity. So having a set of rules that are posted and that all of your kids can follow is important. If chores are assigned, having a chores list is also a helpful memory aid.
Being compassionate while doling our discipline is okay. You should continue to enforce your rules with all of your children consistently, but compassionately — especially for the child with ADHD. Knowing that you are punishing the behavior and not the person is key.
Keep in mind, too, that if getting consistent, good behavior from a child with ADHD is especially difficult, try a rewards system too. Rewarding your child for tasks they perform as expected — whether it’s taking out the trash, or completing their homework on time — is usually far more effective than punishment.
2. Keep your boundaries, and help your child keep theirs.
Children may not understand the concept of “boundaries,” but it basically means keeping the rules of your relationship consistent and expected. You are not your child’s best friend — you are their parent. That means you should act like a parent, even when they’re having a bad day.
That doesn’t mean they can’t confide in you, or that you can’t cut them a break from time to time. But it does mean that every time you excuse your ADHD child’s behavior due to their disorder, you’re actually hurting them in the long run.
3. Be consistent.
A running theme you may have already detected here is that it’s important to be consistent with your child who has ADHD. Knowing what’s to be expected, what’s coming next, when they’re expected to be some place, and what they need to do on their own helps the child keep a routine. Let there be no surprises to their day (or let them be few and far between, as much as possible).
If you’re not good with consistency yourself, then in order to best help your child, you should work on this issue too. Keep a calendar with your daily appointments, and set an alarm clock to have a consistent and regular wake time. Put your child to bed the same time every night. Ensure they do their homework at the same time of day, every day.
4. Homework time!
Which brings up my last point — homework time is a good time to have every day, regardless of the amount of homework. While this is true for every child, it’s especially true for a child that struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Children with ADHD may be more prone to excuses for not being able to complete a task like homework — even more so than a regular child. Helping the child learn responsibility for their own homework is important, including having everything they need to complete it on-time (books, the assignment, etc.).
Ensure your child can do their homework in an environment free of distractions — no TV, no smartphone, and a computer only if needed to help with a specific assignment. If your child has no homework for the day, let them read during that time, or engage in some other educational activity (don’t just let them off the hook without doing anything educational). This is a great time to be actively engaged with your child.
5. Keep appointments.
Keeping your child’s treatment appointments is important for their continued well-being and improvement. This means not only medication appointments, if your child is taking medication, but just as importantly, their therapy appointments as well. If your child is taking a medication, ensure they take it regularly every day.
Your ADHD child isn’t in therapy? That’s a shame and something you should reconsider, because the research shows that children who have access to psychological treatments (in addition to, or instead of medication) improve more quickly — and have better longer-term outcomes.