When your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can turn your home upside down. Mark Bertin, MD, a developmental behavioral pediatrician in Pleasantville, NY, and author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD, offers tips to help you keep control.
What do parents need to know about their child's ADHD?
ADHD relates to something called executive function. It's the skill set that deals with self-management, not just attention or behavior. Raising a child who's behind in those skills can be stressful and tiring for parents, which then makes caring for ADHD harder. That's one reason why it's so important to learn about ADHD. Getting an evaluation from a mental health professional can help you understand what's going on with your family.
How do you find the right parenting style to fit your child?
When you're a parent to someone who's behind in self-management skills, they typically require a structured approach to giving positive feedback and discipline, including clear limit-setting.
How do you help build the executive function skills these kids lack?
Start by meeting kids where they are in their development, as they are delayed around specific skills. There are a number of professionals in different fields that can help, including psychologists or behavioral pediatricians or sometimes an ADHD coach. These specialists teach kids how to build skills through household routines and homework structure or how to handle impulse control and other aspects of ADHD.
How do you encourage good behavior without constantly punishing children or sending negative messages?
Kids with ADHD often need lots of correction, so we need to create balance for them. It's not that kids shouldn't be corrected; it's that they ideally get more positive feedback than negative. Really go out of your way to find their strengths and focus on successes. One basic step is to reward the opposite of problem behaviors. Now they are working toward a goal instead of being corrected.
How do you calm kids down when they get out of control?
When any of us get swamped emotionally, in that moment it's really hard to think rationally. Parents will find it easier if they have a solid plan ahead of time for how they're going to steer their child's behavior. For example, use a reward plan to encourage good behavior or time-outs to defuse the situation before it escalates. Talk about how to manage emotions outside of these intensely stressful moments.
What types of therapies can help kids with ADHD?
There are a lot of interventions that help with ADHD, including behavioral and holistic treatments. Medications have been shown to be safe and effective if they're used right. Consider medications as an option, just as you would for any other medical disorder, and decide if you think they're worth trying if your child continues to struggle.
How can parents address behavioral issues in school?
Kids with ADHD should have, and are entitled to, a supportive, structured behavioral plan in school. A 504 plan also provides the support needed to do well in school, which helps improve behavior. And when parents are more structured about behavioral management at home, that will spill over into school, too.
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD Magazine.