ADHD is the single most common childhood ailment. And while popular press reports present it as little more than a minor annoyance—or even an altogether manufactured disorder—parents living with ADHD children know that it is very real. From forgetting everything, including basic hygiene, to constant complaints from teachers and peers, children with ADHD face a number of challenges. They are more vulnerable to depression and behavioural problems, and more likely to use drugs, engage in reckless behaviour, and have troubled romantic and platonic relationships.
Therapy can help you and your child locate and implement effective coping strategies, while helping you process your feelings—which may include anger, frustration, resentment, sadness, and confusion. These five additional strategies can also help, and don’t require any special training or skill:
Re frame Your Child’s Behaviour
Whether it’s forgetting to do his homework, endlessly provoking her siblings, or constantly throwing tantrums, it’s easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed by your child’s behaviour. But children don’t behave badly on purpose. They behave badly because they are missing something they need, and this is even more true among children with ADHD. Next time you think you might lose it on your child, remind yourself that the problematic behaviour is not a choice; it’s the product of ADHD. Your job is to help your child find a solution, not punish him or her.
Focus on Rewards
Rewarding your child is more fun than punishing him, and it works better, too. Children with ADHD make mistakes because they lose control, not because they want to anger you. Give your child an incentive to make better choices by rewarding her when she does the right thing. A sticker-based reward chart, or a small daily reward for doing the right thing can both work wonders.
Help Your Child Understand His or Her Brain
Parents often avoid talking to their children about ADHD. Sometimes this is because they don’t know how or think their child is too young. Other times it’s because they worry that conversation will stigmatise the child or make her feel bad. But your child already knows, on some level, that he is different. Help him understand what’s going on by explaining that his brain processes things a bit differently. You can then use this as a springboard for discussion about how you can help him. If you need help getting the conversation started, a family counsellor can help.
Children with ADHD have more energy than other children, and will suffer immensely if they spend all day sitting in a classroom or in front of the television. They needs lots of breaks and lots of activity. Aim for at least 90 minutes of physical activity a day, and place your child in a school that encourages such activity. Don’t just throw your kid outside and tell her to exercise, though. Make it a family affair. Take up a sport together or go roller-skating. The goal should be to become more active as a group—not to ostracise your child and make him feel as though he has to to something different from the rest of the family.
Look at the Role of Diet
What your child eats matters. Children do not need and should not have caffeine, including in the form of sodas. Sugary snacks can also be a problem. This doesn’t mean you have to put your child on a restrictive diet; indeed, doing so can do more harm than good. But find ways to eat healthy meals as a family, and don’t buy the food that seems to most ignite your child’s ADHD. You might be surprised by how a few simple changes in diet can greatly improve your life.