ADHD/ADD is a struggle for everyone. With many different levels of severity and symptoms, a case of ADHD/ADD is as unique as the person who has it. I’ve spent many years working with adults with ADHD/ADD, helping them to find strategies and coping mechanisms that would allow them to lead better, fuller lives. Some of those adults had ADHD/ADD as children but were either misdiagnosed or did not receive adequate treatment in their younger years. For parents, an ADHD/ADD diagnosis can be very difficult to process. No one wants to think there is anything wrong with their child’s health, and there are some parents out there who prefer to minimize the signs of ADHD/ADD in their children and instead chalk it up to common hyperactivity or simply misbehavior.
There are few things that can help someone with ADHD/ADD more than receiving proper treatment when they were young. Unconditional support and positivity can make a huge difference in how a child will approach their condition as an adult. Parenting a child with ADHD/ADD can be exhausting and difficult, depending on its severity, but with proper treatment and a few effective strategies, you can help your child understand their condition and build them a foundation of support for their later life.
Set Up a Routine
Setting up routines, schedules, and lists are valuable tools for adults with ADHD/ADD, and the same is true for children. Although they obviously don’t have the ability to create a positive structure for themselves, you do. There should be a time for everything, for getting up, for going to school, for playtime after school, for friends, for watching TV, for supper, and for bed. It can’t just be an arbitrary schedule, they should be able to see it. Set up a daily schedule for them on a whiteboard in the kitchen, making it simple enough for them to read or understand. This kind of a schedule can give them a daily structure to hold onto. Not every day needs to be the same, but still try to keep it to identifiable blocks of time (half-hour, hour, etc.)
Never Punish Them for Behavior that Isn’t Their Fault
Children with ADHD/ADD are easily distracted. When you tell a child with the conditions to clean their room, and they don’t, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is defiance. It could simply be that they forgot, or got distracted by something else. Punishing them for this kind of behavior would be unfair and, frankly, counterproductive.
Of course, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t enforce the rules and punish intentional bad behavior. They are still children and need discipline in their lives. You need to teach your child how to behave. The key is to know which bad behavior is intentional, and which is simply a byproduct of their condition.
Reinforce the Positives
ADHD/ADD is usually viewed through a negative eye, with a focus on the symptoms that disrupt a person’s life. This is a useful mindset for tackling the challenges of the condition, but children need far more than that. No one is just their ADHD/ADD symptoms, there are a lot of positive qualities too. Praising a child with ADHD/ADD for their creativity, their verbal skills, their helpfulness, or any other positive attributes can greatly help their self-esteem, giving them a much better outlook later in their life.
Find the Right Medication
Some parents can be very reluctant to put their children on something for their ADHD/ADD, but finding the proper medication can make a real, positive difference in their lives. Not every medication is right for every child. If one doesn’t work, don’t give up hope, there could be another one out there that does.
It is important to remember that even the most effective ADHD/ADD medication isn’t magic. It won’t suddenly fix every behavioral issue and focus problem that your child has. It can simply make them far more manageable. It’s important to destigmatize using medication early in their lives. There is nothing wrong with taking it, it simply helps with a condition. It’s the exact same as a diabetic who takes insulin, or an asthmatic who has an inhaler.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing a little help when you are raising a child with ADHD/ADD. It can be absolutely exhausting at times. You have to deal with far more behavioural issues, both at home and in school. You need to teach them how to manage their condition. You must make sure that they get the support they need to maintain a healthy level of self-esteem. Family and friends can be a huge help, so long as they understand the condition. There are many support groups out there that your doctor may be able to direct you to. And, of course, there is the internet where you can find messages boards and forums full of other parents who are also raising children with ADHD/ADD. Just talking to them might help, as it’s important to remember that you are not alone.
Although I tend to work with adults who need ADD/ADHD coaching, please feel free to contact me about advice on how proper ADHD/ADD support when someone is young can pay huge dividends when they become adults.