If your child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you are likely no stranger to managing stressful parenting situations. Fortunately, there are some habits and routines you can adopt to make your child’s life more comfortable. Plus, having pre-planned strategies for addressing difficulties can reduce stress for the whole family. Here are five actionable tips that could help you support your child with ADHD.
1. Educate yourself about ADHD.
“An important way of helping your child with their ADHD is by educating yourself about mental health in order to better understand ADHD and how to help your child through it,” Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC, a therapist and co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist in New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
There may even be local support groups you can join in order to help you locate both medical and educational resources. Support groups can also help you connect with, and learn from, other families who may be dealing with the same issues as you.
2. Seek professional support.
“Find professional help for your child so that they can get the help and support they need. Behavioral therapy, in conjunction with medication, is highly effective in helping to mitigate ADHD symptoms,” Sternlicht says.
Stay actively involved with your child’s treatment, and if you decide to start giving your child ADHD medication, work with their doctor on a detailed treatment plan. And remember, even if the medications do not appear to be working, you shouldn't ever reduce or stop giving them without consulting your doctor first.
“Build a bench. Have a support network of professionals and others who can advise you on your next steps,” Jonathan Carroll, MA, ADHD & Executive Functioning Coach and Founder of Carroll Educational Group, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
3. Have a well-defined parenting plan, and stick to it.
When your child has ADHD, you may find that your patience runs thin quickly. That’s why it can be crucially important to have a set of principles or routines that you follow to ground both yourself and your child—instead of merely reacting in frustration or anger.
“Find your own parenting style that is effective for you and your child. Whatever parenting style you find is effective, stick with it and be consistent in your parenting so that your child understands what is and isn’t acceptable behavior,” Sternlicht says.
This isn’t the same thing as becoming a total disciplinarian. In fact, some parents find that taking time out to affirm and appreciate their child’s unique characteristics, as well as their small triumphs, can be extremely valuable.
4. Help your child follow a regular schedule.
“Having a routine can help your child reduce distractions and take care of their responsibilities,” Sternlicht says.
Make a checklist for things that you expect your child to finish during the day like finishing homework, making their bed, or getting ready for school. This helps them to stay focused and finish their work on time. You may also encourage your child to use a daily planner and a timer to organize their school work more efficiently, Mayo Clinic notes.
“Part of this routine also must include a regular and proper sleep schedule which can help reduce unwanted symptoms of ADHD. You should also incorporate exercise into your child’s routine which will not only improve their physical health but can also help to reduce impulsivity and increase concentration,” Sternlicht adds.
5. Work with your child to keep things organized.
“Along with a schedule, it is also important to help your child organize their bedroom and workspace, and make sure to help keep your entire home organized, as this can help with focus and mitigate distraction,” Sternlicht says.
“Kids with ADHD often struggle with disorganization—which is made worse by having too much stuff,” Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, a clinical psychologist in West Chester PA, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“So, once a week, do the backpack dump out and the notebook clean out. The less stuff they have, the fewer places to lose other things. The same goes for reducing the clutter and obsolete items from their room, especially if that requires dynamite and a backhoe,” Tuckman adds.
ADHD is treatable and manageable.
While many parents find that combining medication with therapy is a successful treatment strategy for their child with ADHD, it will take some time for you and your family to find the best solutions for you. It may take some trial and error to land on the most successful strategies, but there are many resources that can help you on your journey.