Parenting a Child With ADHD

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 02, 2021

ADHD can affect all parts of your child’s life. Sometimes they might feel or act in ways that disturb others. That can be stressful for you both. Treatment from your child’s doctor can help. But there are ways you can support them, too.

Here are some steps you can take to boost your child’s mood and chances for success.

Educate Yourself

It’s important to understand why your child acts and feels the way they do. For example, it can be frustrating if they won’t sit still or finish their homework. But research shows the brains of people with ADHD work differently. Experts think these changes lead to problems with executive function. That’s a system of processes in the brain that helps us with lots of things, including controlling our emotions and focusing long enough to get things done.

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes ADHD. But they think genetics play the biggest role. There’s no evidence the disorder stems from too much sugar, lots of screen time, or poor parenting. These things can worsen ADHD symptoms, but they aren’t the cause. There’s no cure for ADHD.

When it comes to diagnosis and treatment, your child’s doctor is a good person to ask. They can also refer you to a health educator or social worker for help. If you want to search online for more information, try these websites:

  • CDC
  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
  • College or university websites

Learn Parent Behavior Training

You play a big part in your child’s ADHD treatment. That’s because kids, especially young ones, might not understand how to change how they act. But you can learn ways to lessen the impact of their ADHD. These include:

  • Be clear when you give directions.
  • Create daily routines.
  • Help your child organize and plan.
  • Limit choices so your child isn’t overwhelmed.
  • Praise good behavior.
  • Discipline with time-outs or loss of privileges, not spanking or yelling.
  • Support healthy sleep and exercise habits.
  • Feed your child healthy foods.

You might need to try a few different things to see what works best. Children age 8 or older might benefit from behavior therapy. Ask your child’s doctor for more information.

Work With Your Child’s School and Health Care Teams

This group might include a pediatrician (that’s a doctor for children), teacher, counselor, psychiatrist, or a school psychologist. Tips to get everyone involved and on the same page include:

Speak up for your child. People sometimes mistake ADHD symptoms for bad behavior. Set up a meeting at your child’s school to talk with them about what’s going on. You can go over:

  • How ADHD affects your child
  • Your child’s treatment plan
  • School-based support programs
  • How your child is doing in school

Look into educationalrights. Certain laws guarantee that kids with ADHD get extra learning support. That includes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

It’s hard to know exactly what will help your child the most. But kids with ADHD can benefit from the following:

  • Extra time to take tests
  • Different assignments
  • Extra breaks to get up and move around
  • A setting with fewer distractions
  • Organizational training, like help with time management and organizing assignments
  • Behavioral training in the classroom, such as positive feedback

To find out what’s available, ask your child’s school or visit the website of the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

Ask your child’s doctor about other health conditions. Kids with ADHD may have other issues that make ADHD harder to manage. They might include one or more of the following:

Create a Supportive Environment

Don’t shy away from the topic of ADHD. Bring it up with your child. Let them know they didn’t do anything to cause it. And encourage their good behavior instead of focusing on their mistakes. For example, point out when they’re paying attention instead of yelling at them when they get distracted.

You can also:

  • Try to do something fun with your child every day.
  • Help them make friends.
  • Teach them how to work with others.
  • Support activities they’re good at, such as art, sports, or working with computers.

And don’t ignore your own mental health. Stress can take a toll on you and your child. Reach out to your friends, family, or a support group when you feel drained. And remember that it’s OK to get professional help when you need it.

Show Sources


Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): “Parenting a Child with ADHD,” “The Science of ADHD,” “Coexisting Conditions.” 

CDC: “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): What is ADHD; Treatment; Parent Training; School,” “Behavior Therapy for Children with ADHD: An Overview.”

Center for Parent Information and Resources: “Find Your Parent Center.”

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Health and Well-being: “Experience of stress in parents of children with ADHD: A qualitative study.”

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