Two of my three children have been diagnosed in the ADHD realm of disorders. One has inattentive ADD and the other ADHD with OCD tendencies. This means mornings (if not entire days) around here are slightly nutty if not entirely off kilter. Having a child with this disorder can be overwhelming but there are tools to arm yourself to support, grow and encourage a great kid.
The first step in helping your child knowledge. At the time we learned our son needed help, I received an email from a frustrated parent who had been assisting in my son’s evening class. She had written that no matter what she tried, my son’s behavior was excessive and out of control.
Kids with ADHD tend to display unwanted behaviors when they are misunderstood. Helpguide writes,
Although the symptoms of ADD/ADHD can be nothing short of exasperating, it’s important to remember that the child with ADD/ADHD who is ignoring, annoying, or embarrassing you is not acting willfully. Kids with ADD/ADHD want to sit quietly; they want to make their rooms tidy and organized; they want to do everything their parent says to do—but they don’t know how to make these things happen.
Having ADD/ADHD can be just as frustrating as dealing with someone who has it. If you keep this in mind, it will be a lot easier to respond to you child in positive, supportive ways. With patience, compassion, and plenty of support, you can manage childhood ADHD while enjoying a stable, happy home.
1. See a Specialist
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or you suspect it, see a behavior specialist. Busy primary care physicians lack the time to train parents and counsel children whereas doctors who specialize in these disorders have a broader scope of tools and training to help support your child. We chose to see a specialist who uses medication as the last piece of the puzzle to help support our kids. In fact, our son is now only on one medication after incorporating a new routine, parenting techniques, and changing our son’s diet.
Medication isn’t for every child but for those who choose to medicate their child, don’t be ashamed. Your child may eventually outgrow the need for medicine as his brain develops and he begins to acquire new skills to handle tasks, impulse control and such. Parents should NOT judge how other parents support their children.
2. Create a Routine
Routines help a child thrive in any environment, especially at home. When your child knows what to expect, it reduces his anxiety because he knows what will happen next. Routines affect life positively on two levels. In terms of behavior, they help improve efficiency and daily functioning. It may not always be obvious, but children want and need routines. A predictable schedule offers structure that makes them feel loved, safe, and secure.
Keep in mind his routine will look different from yours. In the mornings, we give our son his medicine which takes up to 2 hours to take effect. In that time, we give him extra time to complete his tasks by challenging him in a race to get dressed.
Post the schedule where your child can see it. This is one I found at Autism Community. It’s great for kids with and without disorders.
3. Embrace Him
God didn’t damage or short wire your child. So often, we as moms get into the comparison trap comparing our life to someone else’s. Children with ADHD are bright, gifted, and are the “movers and shakers” of the world. Some of the most succesful people in this world have ADHD like Walt Disney, Justine Timberlake, and Michael Jordan.
Children with ADHD are a challenge–that I know but in my 13 years of mothering, I’ve watched certain things spark their passion. When passion is ignited, they thrive acquiring skills, practicing, and focusing on what they love. Remember your chid is fearfully and wonderfully made. God created your child this way to fulfill a specific purpose.
4. Give Clear Expectations
Having ADD/ADHD can be just as frustrating as dealing with someone who has it. Create a set of family rules and display them where your child and the whole family can see them. If your child can’t read yet, consider using pictures next to each rule.
Make sure the rules are posted visibly where all members of your family can see them. Give consequences immediately following misbehavior. Be specific in your explanation, making sure your child knows how they misbehaved.
5. Catch him being good
More often than not, we are so focused on correcting the negative behaviors, we forget to praise our kids when they are doing something right. I make a conscious effort to praise my kids as often as possible even after being disciplined. For example, “Lige, I love the way you handled the consequences. Great job!”
Develop a habit of recognizing good behavior out loud. Be specific in your praise, making sure the child knows what they did right.
6. Consider Diet Alternatives
The jury is still out on this, some parents have found that reducing preservatives and dyes in a child’s diet helps reduce the symptoms where as others have not. We’ve found it to be a great improvement in our kids but eating a whole foods diet, means we limit sugars, exclude dyes, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and hormones.
This means I cook from scratch and purchase organic foods. Click here for what to buy organically.
7. Signal Tranistion Time
One moment you’re heading out the door to the pool and the next your wrestling your child to his room for a time out. Transitioning from one task to the next is often difficult for kids. It can become a source of anxiety, causing undesirable behaviors to emerge in your lovely ragamuffins. Some children exhibit a lack of concentration, meltdowns or explosive behaviors when confronted with even the smallest of transitions.
Give AMPLE warnings with a smile! “Okay, Cheyenne, in 30 minutes we are heading to the pool. Head’s up, we are leaving in about 10 minutes.” And often I’ll holler the 2 minute warning mark. “Kids, in 2 minutes I’ll be in the car waiting for you.”
This helps your child to begin transitioning his thoughts and focus to the next task at hand without producing feelings of anxiety or frustation. This doesn’t mean your child should lollygag either. As a mom you know when your chid is pulling your leg or when he is genuinely having difficulty being on time. Should the occasion arise, be prepared to give consequences.
As a mom of a child with special needs like Aspergers, ADD or ADHD, what tips would you give another mom raising a child with these disorders?