8 Tips for Talking With Your Child About ADHD
Talking with your child about his ADHD isn't always easy. But it's important to do, and it goes better if you keep it productive and positive.
"I have two children with ADHD, so I can speak from experience here," says Terry Dickson, MD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan, and an ADHD coach. "The reason why you need to talk about your child's ADHD with him directly is because you want them to be involved, to understand, and to be on board."
These eight tips will help you talk about it.
When you find out your child has ADHD, that's the time to start communicating with them about it.
"It's never too early to start talking with your child about his ADHD," says Patricia Collins, PhD, director of the Psychoeducational Clinic at North Carolina State University.
You'll talk about it many times as your child grows and develops. Start having those talks as early as possible.
A good approach is to help your child understand what ADHD means, what it doesn't mean, and how to be successful at school and in life. What you say should be appropriate for their age.
"You need to help your child feel special, and like he is part of the plan," Dickinson says. "He should feel like he is involved."
1. DO make sure your child feels loved and accepted.
Help him understand that ADHD has nothing to do with his intelligence or his ability, and it's not a flaw, Dickson says.
2. DO pick the discussion time wisely.
"It should be a time when you are unlikely to be interrupted," Collins says.
Try to pick a time when your child isn't eager to do something else, like playing outside or before dinner or bed.
Leave some time for follow-up, so you're available to the child after the conversation is over if he has extra questions.
3. DO let them know they're not alone.
Many other people have ADHD, too, and everyone with ADHD can be successful.
Give your child examples of people who have or had ADHD that they might know, like Walt Disney, Michael Phelps, and designer Tommy Hilfiger.
Let your child know they are special and they can succeed as well as anyone else.
4. DO learn more about ADHD.
Talk to your doctor, reach out to advocacy groups, and find support groups in your area.
"One of the best things you can do is talk to other parents who already have experience with ADHD about what they've learned," Collins says.
5. DON'T focus on the negative.
"Focus on their strengths, what they do well, and praise their accomplishments," Dickinson says.
"Whether its sports, arts, or dance, they can pursue their interests and do well with your support."
6. DON'T let your kids use their ADHD as an excuse.
"Kids can't take the easy way out by blaming their setbacks on their ADHD," Collins says.
"Parents need to help their child understand that ADHD is not a reason to not turn in homework, to not try their hardest, or to give up."
7. DON'T expect instant interest.
Don't be surprised if your child doesn't respond immediately or seems uninterested, Collins says.
It takes some children, particularly younger ones, some time for new information to make sense, or for them to know what questions to ask.
8. DO maintain open communication.
"One conversation is just the beginning," Dickinson says.
"Keep the dialogue going, talk about school, their friends, homework, extracurricular activities, and keep a positive attitude."