4 Parenting Tips for Children with ADHD
How easy would parenting be if children naturally did everything they “should” be doing? However, setting an expectation as to what a child “should” be doing is a parent's first step down an unsettling path, especially when it comes to children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
It is important for all parents to know ADHD is a neurological disorder that impacts the parts of the brain responsible for focus, impulse control, and executing tasks. ADHD is a brain-based, biological disorder and not developed due to environmental factors or poor parenting.
Parents must understand that ADHD is not a behavioral disorder, a mental illness, or a learning disability. Symptoms vary by individual, but the disorder cannot be “fixed.” If children with ADHD could do the things they “should” be doing, they likely would have already done them.
A child must develop skills and tools to manage the disorder to be successful in school and in life. To increase a child's likelihood for success, parents will benefit from learning skills and tools alongside them.
Here are 4 tips for parents of children with ADHD:
Understanding an ADHD diagnosis is the first step in becoming an effective parent of a child with ADHD. Consult with a therapist, do research, or reach out to a fellow parent of a child with ADHD. By educating yourself, a parent can develop a greater understanding of the ways ADHD may reveal itself in your child and tasks that may be an added challenge.
For example, children diagnosed with ADHD may hyperfocus on an activity. Hyper focusing means direct, intense attention to a singular task. When a child is hyper-focusing on a videogame and mom calls him for lunch, a parent's first instinct is to become frustrated and insulted that their child is not listening to them. When in reality, a child may not hear you when he is in a hyperfocused state. Learning about the symptoms of the disorder may change the way you approach your child and the situation.
"""In this scenario, a parent could learn alternative techniques to get their child to come to lunch without yelling at them. For example, using a timer to indicate videogame time is over gives the child autonomy over their actions and when completed successfully, builds self-esteem. """
Children with ADHD have a higher likelihood to develop low self-esteem due to being unable to complete tasks or follow through. Therefore, parents must learn ways to promote self-esteem rather than responding to their children in ways that may contribute to their low self-esteem.
Becoming informed about an ADHD diagnosis will help a parent develop empathy for their child, even in the most frustrating moments. An ADHD diagnosis is often compared to a visualization of an iceberg. The majority of an iceberg sits above the surface, while more sits under the surface where we cannot see it.
Picture the top of the iceberg includes the classic symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. While the unanticipated and undiscussed characteristics lie below the surface including poor-self esteem, low self-confidence, emotional sensitivity, and low frustration tolerance to start.
Parents must educate themselves and look beneath the surface of their child's behaviors. In doing so, they can better understand the empathetic and nurturing parenting style their child needs.
Build a Supportive Team:
Assembling a team of professionals and community members that understand you and your child is essential. It is important to feel supported and understood by your child’s treatment team.
Children with ADHD are often seen by psychiatrists and therapists who put together a treatment plan. Make sure your child's therapist and psychiatrist are the right fit, understand your child's needs, and that they include you in your child's care. It may take a few tries to find the best providers for your family. An executive functioning coach can also be a helpful resource.
Include family members and supportive friends on your team. Make sure these people also understand the implications of your child’s ADHD diagnosis and how they can help when your child is struggling. It is key for everyone to be on the same page to best help your child.
It may also be helping to find a support group. Speaking with other parents or caregivers who are experiencing the same stress or difficulties helps to validate and normalize your own feelings, as well as an opportunity to learn new techniques or ideas to improve your day-to-day. If you are in need of a supportive friend or parent with similar experience there are many online resources. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) is an online community resource for parents with online support groups you can visit at chadd.org.
An ADHD diagnosis is identified within a child after parents, caregivers, or teachers identify a deficit or area of weakness in the child. Focusing on the negative can have dangerous implications including harming a child’s self-esteem, self-worth, and limiting their strengths and capabilities. It is critical to reframe this and focus on areas your child can succeed.
Cue in on how you communicate about your child to others. Do you highlight his deficits rather than emphasize his strengths? Perhaps you empathize “Oh sorry, he never waits his turn!” or “He is so excited to play!”. Try focusing on the positive and the progress being made. Focusing on the negative impacts of how others receive your child, in addition to how he thinks about himself. Your statements become your child's internal voice.
Lean on your child’s strengths. Share strategies that have worked in your home with teachers and other caregivers. By doing so, you increase your child’s likelihood for success and positive feelings about his success. Do not focus on negative events or your child’s unsuccessful attempts. Move on to allow your child to grow.
Seeking therapy for yourself to discuss your own feelings surrounding your child’s ADHD diagnosis may also be helpful. Parents typically have certain expectations for their child or what they view as “normal”. This view is typically flawed as our child often has different interests, strengths, and needs than we initially thought. And with a child with ADHD, this is no different.
Parents may need to grieve the loss of a typical child and change their expectations as to what a successful version of their child looks like. By changing our own perception, we can better support and be an authentic part of the parenting process.
Be Kind To Yourself:
In order to be a successful parent, we must take care of ourselves. This often sounds backward to parents as they think of all the things they must do for their children, to ensure their child's needs are met and they are happy. This false notion not only limits the number of time parents has to do something for themselves but is also faulty reasoning as there will always be endless things to do for your child.
All parents need self-care, but when it comes to parenting a child with ADHD this could not be more imperative. Responding to the child’s needs can be exhausting and parents may feel a sense of helplessness at times. Parents need to reframe these thoughts and recognize the amount of time put into caring for themselves translates into a more patient, more caring, and more empathetic caregiver. Being a calm and empathetic parent is essential for a child with ADHD.
Setting an intention for self-care goals at the beginning of the week can be helpful. This can include going for a walk, taking a nap, or even taking a long shower or bath with no interruptions. Practicing these habits alongside your child models the importance of taking care of ourselves and our own mental health.
You don’t have to go through this alone!
Parenting is hard! Don’t go through it alone. Let me (Jessica Califf, LMFT) be a part of your team. If you are looking for additional support as you parent your child with ADHD or parent a child with any challenges, contact me for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have and discuss how I can help you.
I offer to counsel for children, families, and coaching for parents at our beautiful Coral Springs office or via telehealth for teens and families across the state of Florida on our secure platform. For more information about what I do or how I can help your family, visit my bio here.