Applied Psychology

Expert advice for parenting a child with ADHD

Oct 22, 2018

Parenting in general is hard. Parenting a child with ADHD can feel completely overwhelming. The implementation of a few techniques however can assist both parent and child.

Key takeaways

  • Parenting a child with ADHD can be challenging and at times overwhelming.
  • ADHD is a chronic condition that affects millions of children.
  • ADHD can be divided into three subtypes.
  • When parenting a child with ADHD it’s vital to be kind to your child and yourself.

Let’s face it, parenting can be tricky at the best of times. Navigating the pressures of everyday life with the added responsibility of developing and nurturing a well-adjusted human being can be scary and overwhelming. When raising a child with ADHD this task can be even more challenging. The enormity of your love for your child and your determination to do what’s best for them only increases the pressure contributing to a situation which can, at times, feel impossible.

While all children are active and mostly full of energy it seems that number of children being diagnosed with ADHD is on the increase. Research shows that the condition itself is found more frequently in males, who are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, than females. During their lifetime 12.9% of men will be diagnosed with the attention disorder as opposed to 4.9% of women. The average age of diagnosis is seven years old. With symptoms typically first appearing between the ages of three and six.

What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and adults. Depending on the severity of the disorder, children with ADHD display a number of persistent problems like struggling to concentrate, hyperactivity and impulsive control.

Research indicates that ADHD generally presents itself in one of three ways:

Predominantly inattentive – here the majority of symptoms fall under inattention and include difficulty to maintain sustained concentration.
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive – Here symptoms involve behaviours associated with hyperactivity and impulsive control.
Combined – The most common of all, a combination of inattentive symptoms and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

Raising a child with ADHD involves more than the skills required for traditional childrearing. Often discipline and routine can be highly problematic, and parents need to adopt an innovative approach when dealing with these situations. Here are six ways to do just that.

1. Create structure

Structure is vital when parenting a child with ADHD. It provides a child with a routine that will slowly become easier to maintain thus illuminating some of the chaos that is often associated with the disorder. Be sure to have a clear routine for your child and really try and stick to it. This can involve typical tasks around mealtimes like setting the table or doing homework and chores at the same time each day. Take this one step further by breaking tasks into manageable sizes for example use a wall calendar or chart to list what needs to be done when. Consider colour coding the different elements, this will make it easier to interpret and refer back to when necessary.

2. Limit distractions

Children with ADHD are prone to distractions so when possible keep these to a minimum. Create a quiet place for your child to do their homework and calm things down dramatically before bedtime. Also, research shows that activities such as watching television, playing videogames and using other electronic devices can increase impulsivity. Where possible keep these activities to a minimum.

3. Encourage exercise

Children with ADHD gain remarkable benefits from exercise as it provides them with a healthy outlet for their excess energy. In addition to this, the focus required for certain movements and exercises assists with impulse control and concentration. Exercise also helps to decrease the risk of depression, which is very common in children with ADHD.

4. Regulate sleep patterns

If you’re parenting a child with ADHD it is highly likely that you’re no stranger to the terror that is bedtime. It’s hard to get a child to go to bed at the best of times and an attention disorder and hyperactivity only makes matters worse. Getting enough sleep however is essential for children with ADHD. Lack of sleep exacerbates symptoms thus making children even more hyperactive, less able to focus and more impulsive. The establishment of a calm bedtime ritual will assist in making evening easier. In addition to this try to eliminate stimulates from their diet, like sugar and caffeine, and cutdown on TV time, especially before bed.

5. Encourage out-loud thinking

Children with ADHD typically lack self-control. Their impulsivity and hyperactivity often cause them to react to situations before thinking about the consequences. To assist them with this a parent needs to know what they are thinking, and out-loud thinking is a great way to do this. Help them to verbalise their thoughts and reasoning when behaviours become problematic. This will give you and your child a greater understanding of what’s going on in order to determine how to deal with the situation.

6. Be kind to your child and yourself

Try to keep in mind that all children misbehave and some of what you’re experiencing is probably quite normal for a child. But, when it isn’t, remember that your child is not purposefully trying to upset you or be defiant. That some tasks for children with ADHD are simply more difficult. Use positive reinforcement. Praise good behaviour as opposed to only focussing on the negative. Just like any other child children with ADHD need nurturing, empathy and understanding.

And, finally, be kind to yourself. Remember that you’re only human, which means that you’re not always going to get it right. There will be good days and bad days. Pick your battles, raging against yourself shouldn’t be one of them.

Parenting is no walk in the park and, these days, everyone is an expert. Some things do help though and they’re worth keeping in mind. Don’t forget that children with ADHD are not broken. They simply function differently. And, although not easy, being different is often not entirely a bad thing.

Interested in learning more about psychology? SACAP offers a range of courses, including part-time and full-time as well as distance learning options. For more information, enquire now.

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