As a parent or caregiver, it’s hard to know where to focus your energy, especially when your child has ADHD. Should you spend your efforts searching for the right tutor because of that failing math grade, create a new snazzy chore chart, or consider a new medication option?
As a seasoned parent of an ADHD now young adult and child psychologist, I totally understand.
Over the years, I’ve discovered five key supports that should be staples in your ADHD child’s life. These are the things that you try to implement, even when life is overwhelming and crazy. They’re your foundational supports. You’re go-tos.
Sure, you’ll fall short in one or all areas some days, but that’s okay. The point is to keep them in your consciousness and start fresh the next morning with the intension to circle back to them.
It’s kind of like me and yoga. I may not practice yoga daily, but I can still use the tools I’ve learned in yoga when life gets hectic, like remember to breath, keep an open mindset, and be kind to myself – I made to my mat for goodness sakes!
Here are the Top 5 Parenting Supports Your ADHD Child Needs
1.Positive reinforcement: Notice what your child is DOING RIGHT and simply comment on it. While this may seem easy, it’s not! Especially if you’ve been caught in a negative cycle with your child. As parents, we get so used to pointing out where our child is falling short, that we forget to NOTICE and then COMMENT on what’s going right. These positives can be tiny, like throwing the ball for the dog or BIG like getting started on homework without a reminder. Another piece of advice: When you compliment your child, don’t make a huge deal out of it. Just comment with a smile and move on. And, always focus on the positive (e.g., It’s really sweet how you play fetch with Barney. It really brightens his day – and mine).
2. Side-by-side support: This is a super important one. Believe me – I love my free time too. But here’s the deal. You’re going to have less of it as a parent of an ADHD kid. If you can accept your reality, and even embrace it (My child needs me to be nearby during hard tasks like homework or cleaning his room, which is our path), then you’ll be less frustrated. My son never would have become a musician or learned his math facts without a lot of side-by-side help. He wandered away from his guitar (Star Wars action figures were calling) and 3×4 would NOT stick without massive repetition. I didn’t focus all of my attention on him during his work time, either. Just being there is often enough
3. Stay Strong: Even when your child tells you that you’re the ONLY mean parent who won’t allow him to first person shooter games, like Call of Duty, just know this is a bunch of hooey!!! And you’re not damaging his reputation, or killing his chances of making new friends, either. Follow your gut instincts parents. If you believe that physical activity or imaginative play is way more important than gaming, then find ways to incorporate these activities into your child’s life. And don’t throw in the towel just because that first basketball practice was a disaster.
4. Advocacy: Yes, it’s your job to email/ talk to your child’s teachers, coaches, church leaders, you name it to help them understand your kiddo. Keep exchanges short and too the point too (e.g., Hi, I’m Mary’s mom. She’s super excited to start Girl Scouts next week! I wanted to let you know that she has been diagnosed with ADHD. She won’t be able to sit through meetings without something to keep her hands busy, so I’m sending her with her latest crochet project. She LOVES to help out, so if you can give her jobs, you’ll be golden. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help).
5. Keep things in perspective, even when your child stumbles: Your resilience and even-mindedness will send your child the message that you both can weather the storms that come your way. You aren’t proud of the fact that she threw her notebook across the room during math class, but you aren’t devastated by it either. ADHD and school work bring many opportunities for conniption fits by all parties involved.
If you focus your energy on figuring out how to move forward (Flinging your notebook wasn’t your shining moment, but we all make mistakes. Let’s talk to your math teacher tomorrow and come up with a plan to make math class less stressful), instead of shaming (How COULD you have done such a thing???? Your father and I are SO horrified), then I guarantee you, you’ll get better results.
Check out a few of my favorite parenting books written by ADHD experts who share a similar message:
Martin Kutscher’s book ADHD: Living without Brakes
Edward Hallowell’s and Peter Jensen’s book Superparenting For ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child
Russell A. Barkley’s book Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoratative Guide for Parents