October is ADHD Awareness Month
When moms and dads first enter the world of parenthood they often have unconscious expectations for what they desire their children to be like.
Whether you realized it or not, you probably dreamt of a well-behaved, obedient, attentive listener that gives you little to any trouble at all.
So, what happens when a few years in you find your child struggles to stay on task, sit in their seat, or retain anything you say at all?
For these parents, raising a child with ADHD is simply the cards they were dealt. It can seem overwhelming at first to navigate these tricky, restless waters but with education, patience, and intention, you can not only raise your ADHD child but empower them to thrive despite their diagnosis.
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can parent your child with ADHD so they come out of childhood well-equipped to take on the world.
Exploring Childhood ADHD:
If you’re a parent with an ADHD child, you’re reminded of their symptoms constantly. However, if you’re here because you merely suspect your child may have ADHD but aren’t quite sure, there are a few things to be on the lookout for.
Childhood ADHD is characterized by an inability to focus mixed with hyperactivity and impulsivity beyond what’s considered normal for their age.
Of course, all kids have what seems to be endless energy but ADHD can greatly hinder their ability to develop proper behavioral control, resulting in many negative side effects.
Because children with ADHD struggle to pay attention they may:
- Seem distracted often
- Seem like they aren’t actually listening to you
- Have a hard time following verbal directions
- Need many reminders to do things
- Show little or poor effort in academics
- Have a difficult time staying organized
- Lose or misplace things frequently
Because children with ADHD are hyperactive they may:
- Climb all over things
- Jump off anything they can
- Roughhouse or become energized when its time to quiet down
- Fidget often
- Seem unable to sit in their chair
- Rush through tasks instead of taking their time
- Make careless (unnecessary) mistakes
- Be constantly on the go
Because children with ADHD exhibit impulsive behavior they may:
- Have a hard time regulating their emotions when upset
- Have emotional outbursts
- Lose their temper often
- Lack self-control
- Interrupt often
- Blurt out answers
- Do things without thinking
- Speak without thinking
- Have a hard time taking turns, waiting, or sharing
- Do things they know they shouldn’t
As you can see, ADHD is like an iceberg. Many people see hyperactivity and the inability to focus as the main struggles of children with ADHD. However, there is far more below the surface including “all or nothing” thinking, anxiety, trouble making friends, mood swings, insomnia, and much more.
So, with all of these problems that can stem from ADHD how can we ensure we’re doing the best we can as parents in order to help them manage their condition and set them up for success?
4 Ways To Help Your Child Thrive Despite Their ADHD:
Just as therapy, medication, and school plans are important to a child with ADHD, parenting is no different. The way you parent your child with ADHD can either make life easier (for the both of you) or much harder.
The more you learn about ADHD, the less likely you are to attribute some of its symptoms as simply “bad behavior”.
Many children with ADHD recognize their impulsivity but aren’t mentally developed enough to manage it on their own. Punishing a child for their ADHD only perpetuates their feelings of guilt and shame over their condition.
In addition, follow your physician or mental health provider’s recommendations. If they suggest treatment, be sure to attend all therapy appointments. If medication is encouraged, educate yourself on what may be the best fit for your child. While doctors are professionally trained, you know your child on a deep level. The more educated and involved you can be with your child’s diagnosis, the better equipped you will feel to handle whatever comes your way.
Identify Your Child's Strengths:
For many children, ADHD comes hand in hand with low self-esteem. These children see others getting their work done in a timely manner, sitting for long periods of time without trouble, and acting in responsible and respectful ways.
Kids with ADHD may wonder why they can’t be that way, too. If they’re undiagnosed this can often turn into an internal battle of shame and guilt over things they don’t understand.
Finding your child’s strengths and building upon them can help boost their self-confidence, and create a more positive internal voice. They’ll feel pride and accomplishment when they spend time doing something they love.
As an added bonus, both children and adults with ADHD are able to focus much easier on a task they genuinely enjoy – relieving some of those burdens, even for a short time.
Set Clear Expectations:
Children with ADHD need clear, consistent expectations in order to thrive at home. ADHD can hinder your child’s ability to act their age.
This can make even basic “age-appropriate” expectations feel unrealistic. If you’re constantly getting frustrated with your child, or find yourself saying, “how many times do I need to tell you!?” you may need to reevaluate what you’re asking of them.
Setting clear, consistent, ADHD age-appropriate expectations not only makes you a more understanding parent, but it also reduces tension, stress, and power struggles at home.
Create a Behavioral Management Strategy:
With ADHD comes emotional outbursts and dysregulation, mood swings, anger problems, and impulsive behaviors.
This can cause temper tantrums of massive proportions when your child with ADHD becomes overstimulated or overwhelmed with too many tasks at once. In addition, these symptoms of ADHD can cause your child to act in ways you may not understand – in ways, they likely don’t understand.
Make sure to have a behavioral management strategy in place when these situations arise. In many children with ADHD, using proactive instead of reactive behavior interventions can make all the difference.
Establish specific rules, stay consistent with them, celebrate their successes, and reward them with positive interactions in order to avoid any problematic behaviors that can arise from your child battling ADHD.