Life with a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) can be extremely overwhelming and frustrating, but as a parent there is a lot you help reduce and manage the symptoms. You can help your child overcome daily challenges, positively channel his or her energy, and improve the family environment by creating a calm atmosphere. The sooner and more consistently you address your child’s symptoms, the greater chance they have to overcome the challenges presented by ADHD.
Parenting any child is a difficult task to begin with, but when your child has ADHD/ADD you are parenting a child with greater demands, needs more involvement, and requires greater patience and understanding by the parent and the whole family. Especially with siblings of a child with ADHD, feelings of resentment by the child who requires less attention can make the task of parenting even more overwhelming.
The job of parenting becomes increasingly difficult when one or both parents have either diagnosed or undiagnosed ADHD. If a parent has undiagnosed can often lead to serious consequences in family life, such as a chaotic schedule, forgetting to pay bills and difficulty following through with treatment recommendations for themselves and/or their child. Also, if a parent has ADHD, that parent may also struggle being consistent with their child.
Parenting skills will be affected by the parent’s own ADHD. Studies show that parents with ADHD tend to provide less supervision, have more difficulty keeping tabs on their children and knowing where they are, and are less adept at creative problem solving. If an issue or problem comes up, parents with ADHD tend to address it the same way again and again and struggle to flexible in their parenting approach.
Helping your child with ADHD
Children with ADHD in general have deficits in executive function. So the ability to think and plan ahead, organise, control impulses, and complete tasks for a child with ADHD is more difficult than for a child without ADHD. That means we need to provide extra guidance while your child gradually acquires his or her own executive skills.
It is important to remember that despite the symptoms of ADHD being incredibly frustrating, your child is not choosing to act in such a way, and often the child is just as frustrated as you are. Children with ADHD want to be able to follow instruction, be organised, sit still in class, but simply do not know how to make this happen or understand why they are unable to do these things. If you support your child with compassion and patience, as a family you can manage to overcome the difficulties presented by ADHD and create a calm and happy home.
ADHD and your family
To successfully parent a child with ADHD it is fundamental to understand ADHD in general and the impact of your child’s symptoms on your family as a whole. Children with ADHD exhibit many behaviours that often unsettle family life:
The impact of ADHD on parents
The demands of monitoring a child with ADHD can be physically and mentally exhausting. Your child’s inability to “listen” can lead to frustration and that frustration to anger—followed by guilt about being angry at your child. Your child’s behaviour can make you anxious and stressed and if there’s a basic difference between your personality and that of your child with ADHD, his or her behaviour can be especially difficult to accept.
In order to meet the challenges of raising a child with ADHD, you must to be able to master a combination of compassion and consistency. Living in a home that provides both love and structure is the best thing for a child or teenager who is learning to manage ADHD.
Stay positive. A positive, calm and focused attitude is your best asset to help your child overcome the challenges of ADHD.
Believe in your child. Despite often challenging you, try and remember your child’s positive values, and know that with your support you can work together to help your child overcome the challenges of ADHD.
Remember to keep things in perspective. Remember that your child’s difficult behaviour is not intentional and is caused by the disorder rather than their character. Remember to laugh, what is annoying and embarrassing today might be funny in a couple of years time.
As a parent of a child with ADHD/ADD it is often easier to criticise their behaviour, but this is counterproductive and as hard as it may be it is far more helpful to seek out and praise good behaviour instead of punishing or taking away things for bad behaviour. To do this you could:
More tips to help you keep you and your family happy, and to help your child stay organised and focused:
Take care of yourself so you’re better able to care for your child. To remain patient, calm and positive with your child, it is important to look after yourself. If you are overtired, you are less patient and accepting and it is easier to not follow your routine which is so important for a child with ADHD. Eat right and exercise, and find any other way which works for you to reduce stress, whether it means a nightly bath or practicing morning meditation.
Seek support. Remember that your are not alone in raising a child with ADHD. Talk to your child’s doctor or teachers or join a support group for parents of children with ADHD. These groups are a great way to learn tips, share experiences and vent your feelings if you need to!
Take a break. Ask a friend, family member, or child minder to look after your child for an afternoon so you can take a break to recharge.
For your child:
Establish structure and routine and try stick to it as much as possible. Predictable timetables, patterns and places make it is easier for children with ADHD to succeed in completing tasks. Establish and try to maintain simple and predictable rituals for meals, homework, play, and bed so your child knows what to expect and also what is expected of them.
Use clocks and timers. Place clocks throughout your house, with one in your child’s bedroom. Use a timer for homework or transitional times, such between homework, playtime and getting ready for bed.
Simplify your child’s schedule. It is good to avoid idle time, but a child with ADHD may become more distracted and “wound up” if there are too many after-school activities. You may need to make adjustments to the child’s after-school commitments based on the individual child’s abilities.
Create a quiet place. Make sure your child has a quiet, private space of his or her own.
Establish house rule. Make the rules of behaviour for the whole family. Rules should be explained clearly and it is extremely important to explain what will happen when the rules are obeyed and when they are broken. Write out the rules and hang this list next to the schedule, the penalty for breaking rules should be just and consistent.
Make sure your directions are understood. Speak clearly and slowly in a calm voice, then ask your child to repeat the directions back to you. Keep them short and simple. Congratulate your child when he or she completes the task.
Do your best to be neat and organised. Make sure your child knows that everything has its place and lead by example with neatness and organisation as much as possible.
Use homework and notebook organisers. Stress the importance of having your child write down assignments and bring home the needed books. A checklist at the end of the day can be extremely helpful to make sure schoolbooks, lunch boxes, and jackets are brought home from school.
Help with school activities. School mornings can be difficult for children with ADHD. Get ready the night before, lay out school clothes and get the book bag ready. Allow enough time for your child to get dressed and eat a good breakfast.
Focus on effort, not grades. Reward your child when he tries to finish school work, not just for good grades. You can give extra rewards for earning better grades.
ADHD Parenting Programme
Why not take a look at our ADHD Parenting Programme?
ADHD Parents Norfolk UK Facebook Group
Why not join our ADHD Parents Norfolk UK group?