A parent raising a child with ADHD will have a unique parenting experience that brings unexpected challenges and situations. ADHD parenting might look a little different from traditional parenting depending on the severity and type of the child’s symptoms. You’ll probably find yourself trying different approaches to find out what works best for your family. While it may be quite frustrating to cope with some of the behaviours of a child with symptoms of ADHD, you don’t have to despair. Here are seven tips, strategies and ideas that can help make life easier for you and your child.
Work with your child
You will develop a stronger relationship with your child if you make sure you work with them. When you’re caring for an ADHD child, you need to first be clear on which behaviours you will and won’t tolerate. It’s very important that you stick to these guidelines once you’ve made them.
Even better is if you can develop your rules and routines together so that your child knows they are there for their benefit. Once this is in place, it’s important to accept that kids with ADHD have a brain that’s functionally different from that of other children.
Children with ADHD are prone to impulsivity that may lead to behaviour that they know and understand is unacceptable; they just can’t find a way to avoid it when everything seems to happen so fast inside their heads.
It’s also key to have a solid communication system in place with your child’s school and ensure that your child can see their school and their parents working together. This might mean regular meetings or phone calls. For children with one to one support, make sure the person who works with them the most touches base with you regularly and that your child knows this happens.
Be consistent and clear
Once you establish a set of rules, it’s important that you stick to them. >For instance, reprimanding your child one day and then allowing the same behaviours at other times can be very confusing to a developing child. You must ensure consistency in following up on acceptable and unacceptable behaviours.
It may be difficult for your child to internalise and enact your guidelines. So, you need to make the rules clear and simple for them. If appropriate, you might want to use a reward system for following your rules. Just be aware that this doesn’t work for every child and that rewards often work for a limited time, so don’t rely too heavily on them for behaviour management. Make sure you praise a child for doing the right thing as they will find it easier to understand your rules through repetitive and positive reinforcement.
Consistency in the daily routine is also really important. Not only does an ADHD brain do well with a steady routine, but children gain a great deal of reassurance from a regular routine and it may reduce anxiety.
Pick your battles wisely
It’s normal for parents to find fault with their children, but try not to chastise them for every single thing. It’s important to pick your battles wisely and not sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself, “does it really matter?” If the answer is “no”, then let it go. Save your energy for another time when it matters more. It can be really difficult to do this and to learn to just go with the flow, but if you can, it will reduce your stress considerably.
It’s also important to celebrate how far a child has come. If a child who used to refuse to eat at the dining table, will now come to the table but still not sit down, this is a significant improvement. Does it really matter if they can’t sit still or keep getting up?
Every behaviour is a reaction to a situation. Following an incident of undesirable behaviour, it’s worth taking the time to consider what might have triggered it. Then the next time a similar situation occurs, you will be better prepared to deal with it and may be able to de-escalate the situation more quickly. It’s heartbreaking to see a child go into meltdown but with a little reflection and insight, you can hopefully reduce incidents like this. You won’t always get it right and you won’t always be able to identify their triggers but that’s okay because this is a learning curve for everyone.
Don’t punish them for having ADHD
ADHD can be challenging for families and children often feel remorse for being unable to control their behaviour. Don’t make them feel worse than they already do, especially following a difficult incident. When enough time has passed for everybody to calm down, make it clear to your child that you understand, you are not angry with them and always be ready to offer them a hug, even if they don’t want it. If they have already been punished at school for something that has happened there, by all means, talk about it but keep your cool and don’t feel you have to punish them again.
If something doesn’t go according to plan, then try plan b, then plan c and so on until you find what works. Bear in mind that an ADHD mind can quickly lose interest in something and what works one time, may fail dismally the next. Kids with ADHD are spontaneous and unpredictable and sometimes you’ve just got to go with it. This can be difficult and exhausting but if you can learn to let things go and accept that your plans sometimes need to change, you will feel more in control. It’s also good to remember that sometimes ADHD kids benefit from downtime too. Even hyperactive children get tired and sometimes a day spent at home doing very little is exactly what’s needed.
ADHD parenting is hard and there’s no doubt that it puts a strain on a family. It’s important to take some time for yourself sometimes too. A few hours away from your family can be really beneficial and allow you to recharge ready to return. You must do whatever you need to do to unwind and not feel guilty about it. You’ll be a better parent because of it.
Parent Support Programme
At the ADHD Centre, we run a Parenting Programme to support you with child ADHD behaviour management. The programme helps parents to implement accommodations for their children and provides tools and strategies to build self-awareness and self-regulation.
Once you have found a few strategies that work for your child, this will usually help to drastically reduce their symptoms and also assist your child in overcoming self-doubt and building good solid self-esteem.
If you’d like to find out more about our parenting programme or our child ADHD assessment and ADHD treatment options, then please contact us at the ADHD Centre on 0800 061 4276 or via [email protected].
Updated October 2021