12 Most Helpful Tips for Raising a Child with ADHD

12 Most Helpful Tips for Raising a Child with ADHD

Our bright, gorgeous amazing seven year old was diagnosed with ADHD when he was not yet five. When I look back at the roller coaster of the past three years, it occurs to me that I wish I had known these 12 tips back then.

1. Give yourself a break

Parenting is hard work, period. Parenting a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is really, really hard work. If you have a spouse or partner, tag off with each other and back each other up if one of you is getting overwhelmed. Or, reach out to your network and trade off the same favor to another parent.

2. Focus on rewards, not take aways

Our seven-year old son can lose his train of thought in the midst of any activity. Seriously. He now gets mini-rewards for completing tasks he has to fight hard to concentrate on. If he gets out to the car in the morning with his homework packed, teeth bushed and shoes on, he gets to watch a movie for the ten-minute ride to school. We used to have to beg and plead. We sometimes still do. But a reminder about what’s at stake often helps him keep himself on track. Ahhh.

3. Stay consistent

You have to be incredibly consistent about what you say will happen and what actually happens. If our son, for instance, didn’t earn the movie because we had to prompt him repeatedly in the morning to get through the routine and out the door, that DVD does not go on. No matter how much he whines or complains or justifies why he should get it. Stand your ground. They will learn.

4. Be neutral

No matter how frustrating it can be, issue clear instructions in a neutral tone, and then let the child deal with the consequences. When our son forgets his homework, he has to take responsibility for that. When he broke a window in our house by, impulsively, throwing a wooden block at it, he had to help pay for the repair. And so on. That teaches. Yelling, berating, lecturing, and so on do not produce effective results.

5. Find help

Counselors, doctors, programs and medicine can offer very helpful resources for you and for your child. Seek out the wealth of information available on the Internet, as well.

6. Be choosy about your friends

Not everyone in your social circle is going to be understanding or empathetic. It’s pretty hard to imagine what it’s like to be the parent of a child with ADHD if you’re not one. No one else really knows what you are going through or the work you’re putting into it. So if you’re feeling judged, and getting those looks or comments from another parent or relative (“What your kid really needs is…”) just limit the interactions with those folks, where possible.

7. Be persistent

We ended up switching medicine six times before we had the right match up. We have been to two schools. We switched Occupational Therapists because the fit wasn’t right. We will soon begin our third year at the program our son attends in summer because we have seen great results for us and for him. Keep at it!

8. Be an advocate

You are going to have to enroll your child’s teachers or caregivers in your quest to change the behavior of your child. You might have to fight for an Individualized Education Plan at school. You might also have to push for special services or accommodations. That’s now part of your job. Get them on board by being a partner.

9. Your child will adapt his or her behavior to yours

It’s hard work, but we have to change our own behavior if we want to influence and change our son’s. That’s one of the main lessons we have learned from the program at the Cleveland Clinic we found three years ago. The summer program involves lessons and lectures for the parents once a week for two hours all summer long, with homework. Hard work? You bet! Has it helped us? Absolutely! We’ll be back again in June.

10. Look for the possibilities

This is another tenet of the Clinic’s program. It means, basically, don’t get stuck in the history of what has happened because until you step out of that rut, the past will create your future. If you’re the parent of a child with ADHD, you know all about the disappointments and failures. Now, take a deep breath and look ahead and look up — to what’s possible.

11. Don’t blame yourself

Your child’s ADHD is not your fault. And that’s a stuck-in-the-rut way of thinking, anyway. Keep focused on what you can do to put in place forward movement and breakthroughs to new actions, new approaches and a fresh orientation. That’s progress.

12. Fall in love with climbing the mountain

No, ADHD doesn’t “go away.” You don’t suddenly “fix it.” And you’re going to experience breakdowns as you find your way. So, since you’re gonna have to keep climbing, as Dr. Michael Manos,  says you might as well fall in love with climbing.

Every child is different. But for us, these 12 tips have given us re-affirming guidance as we go. If diet or some other approach has given your family results, please weigh in and comment. But, if you just want to tell me about what my kid really needs…

Featured image courtesy of  djKianoosh via Creative Commons.

Becky Gaylord


Becky worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. Becky blogs about that (a few other things) at Framing What Works.

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