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4 Strategies for Parenting a Seemingly Difficult Child with ADHD
ADHD is one of the most common types of behavioral disorders in young children. Most children grow out of their hyperactivity as they reach adulthood, but if you're in need of immediate solutions, and not ready to take the medication route, there are holistic approaches you can take as a parent to significantly improve your child's behavior. If you are a parent concerned about your child's ADHD, the following tips and approaches can help alleviate your child's symptomology (and your stress):
1. OBTAIN A MENTAL HEALTH ASSESSMENT
This is obviously a no brainer, but many parents, and even teachers, will attempt to diagnose a child based off of things they've read on the internet or their presumptions about ADHD. ADHD, as common as it is, has very specific criteria that must be met before an actual diagnosis can be applied. A licensed clinician (such as a psychologist, LPC, psychiatrist or LCSW) should conduct a thorough mental health assessment. In some cases, some of your child's behaviors may be a medical condition and not be related to mental health at all. A therapist can help assess whether or not that is the case. A therapist may also be able to help you apply the following techniques based on you and your child’s circumstances.
**Ok, so lets say you've had your child assessed and they were diagnosed with ADHD. At this point you'll want to examine the following areas of your child's life and implement the corresponding strategies:
2. EXAMINE YOUR CHILD’S DIET
Sugar is literally in almost everything nowadays, and I'm not referring to the good sugars that you get from fruits, but the artificial sugars that are typically found in sodas, cakes and cookies. Sugar plays a huge role in our children's behavior. Candy, sugary cereals, juice, ice cream and cake usually contain artificial sugars that increase hyperactivity. The best solution is to simply ban all foods containing artificial sugars from your home and write a note to the school asking to exclude your child from eating foods that contain sugar. However, it definitely won't be that easy. This is one of the most difficult areas to get a hold on primarily because the parent is usually also addicted to sugar as well. So how do you get around this if you can't kick your own sugar addiction? One way is to make an effort to keep the sweet goodies out of your child's sight and reach. Hide them in your room or in a box that only you have a key to. Buy your child sugar free candies and snacks and gradually ween them off of sugary drugs. Also, another tip, that is also very effective, is to simply educate your child about the negative effects of eating/drinking foods that contain artificial sugar periodically. Children are a lot smarter than we think. Explaining how sugar is like a drug can do wonders and can also gradually increase their awareness of how unhealthy sugary foods and drinks are. They'll think twice about asking for that soda at a restaurant. Keep in mind, if you decide to completely remove sugars from your child's diet, their behaviors will start to look worse. These are merely the withdrawal symptoms they'll experience after going off of the sugar. Don't give up or give in. Stick with it and they'll eventually come out of it.
3. CREATE A ROUTINE
What does your child's schedule look like while at home? An idle mind creates boredom- which is one of the mood related symptoms of ADHD. If your child has free reign to do whatever he or she wants while at home, he or she will develop a short attention span. A short attention span leads to hyperactivity. Luckily, children are still young enough to be molded and "trained". One strategy is to develop a daily schedule that will account for every minute of their day until it is time to go to bed. The key to this strategy is consistency. Stick to whatever schedule you create 7 days a week. Do not create a schedule and allow your child to talk you out of sticking to it. Create a schedule and then implement it consistently for at least 21 days. 21 days develops a habit. Below is an example of a generic schedule:
2:00PM-3:00PM: Homework and study time
3:00PM-4:00PM: Activity Time (complete an art or science project, book report, etc *physical outside activity is best)
4:00PM-5:00PM: Chores (wash dishes, clean room)
6:30PM-7:00PM: TV or Electronics Access
7:00PM-8:30PM: Bath, Get Ready for Bed
8:45PM- Til: : Sleep, lights out, no electronics.
**This scheduled is tentative and based on your child getting out of school and returning home by 2:00PM. It's completely customizable and there are a wealth of creative and fun structured activities available to fill in a full day. A structured, consistent schedule increases their attention span and decreases their impatience.
4. DEVELOP A DISCIPLINE/REWARD PLAN
How do you reward your child for his or her good behavior? How is he or she disciplined? This is one of the final strategies in dealing with children with ADHD. It is also one of the most common. You've probably already attempted to do this with your child, but stopped for whatever reason. It is important for you to keep in mind that whenever you implement a new procedure or strategy with a child (or adult for that matter) you must do it for at least 21 days in order to see a change in habit. There are tons of reward plans for parents to create for their children. My favorite is this one Check out Pinterest as well.
Children with ADHD are manageable. With all of the hustle and bustle that occurs in the world today it’s easy to give up and let your child’s symptoms fester and become worse, but don’t! Give it at least 21 days (3 months if you're weening your child off of sugar) and you’ll see a major improvement. Think about it- 3-12 weeks of stress, resistance and increased adverse behaviors is a lot better than going years with a child who never quiet got a hold on managing their symptoms. It can be done. You may have setbacks, give up and even cry, but the important thing to remember is the end goal. Also, talk to other other parents and share tips and strategies. Good Luck!