Top Tips for Helping Your Child With their ADHD
By Peter Lindholm
So your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. What does this mean, for them and for you?
Well, on a practical level, it means that certain chemical imbalances in your child’s brain make things like focusing, paying attention, impulse control and following through on tasks difficult for them. And for you, it means that your child will require more attention and help than some of their peers.
So what’s the best way for you as the parent to support them, and yourself as well?
Here are five tips.
1. Emphasize the Positives!
You know this, of course, because you see how great your child is! But it’s important to remind them! Studies have shown that students with ADHD are highly creative, unique thinkers that are adept at coming up with out-of-the-box ways to solve problems.
Additionally, ADHD has been linked to higher intelligence and compassion. Reminding them of these positive traits is a great way to help them love the person they are, diagnosis and all.
2. Focus can be Grown & Nurtured
It will be important to remind them that focus is not fixed. It is not going to be like this forever. Studies at Harvard University have shown that the part of our brain that controls executive functioning is just not developed—that goes for everyone! All people have to work on attention span and impulse control. For some it may be more difficult than others. It will be important to remind your child that focus can be nurtured and that through some patience and exercise they can actually increase their attention span!
3. Encourage Exercise over Screen Time
Exercise is one of the best treatments for ADHD. In fact, one of the symptoms of ADHD is a great deal of energy, so scheduling and encouraging exercise is a great way to help get out some of those jitters.
The other side of that coin is being mindful of screen time. Excessive screen time can exacerbate the attention and focus issues implicit in ADHD. However, it is unrealistic to expect your child to avoid screens; that is not the world they live in! And setting hard and fast limits can just lead to conflict. Instead, discuss timeframes and stopping points with your child, and try to limit the distractions from your own screen use (no TV during homework time, shut it down at bedtime, etc.) Encouraging activity over screen time can work to make your child’s ADHD highly manageable.
4. Don’t Try to “Understand”
Often, the diagnosis will be feel stressful for your child. While it can feel comforting to have a name for what they’ve been feeling, it can feel isolating to know that they are different than their friends. This stress may lead to conflict with you, the parent. Often the child is not looking for understanding from you-- what they want is support and respect. Instead of managing their condition, help them manage it themselves.
5. Practice Self-Care
This diagnosis can be equally stressful for parents. Knowing what to do and how to manage and support your child after the initial diagnosis can feel overwhelming. Make sure you take time for you. You are the most important role model for your child. If they see you becoming frustrated and frantic, they will take it as their fault and mirror that behavior. Studies have shown that children who have a chaotic or frantic household have a more difficult time managing their emotions, focusing and controlling their impulses. Take a break, schedule something you love to do, anything that you can back from refreshed and ready to love and support your child.