Steps parents can take to help their child with ADHD thrive.
Photo by Tara Winstead
Parenting a child with ADHD presents some unique challenges. Children with ADHD have a harder time focusing and can exhibit more impulsive behaviors, which can make following routines and rules seem impossible at times.
However, parenting a child with ADHD does not have to cause endless struggles and stress. It simply requires more patience and a willingness to adopt a different parenting strategy. What works for a neurotypical child likely won’t work for your child with ADHD, but that’s okay.
It is possible to create a happy, healthy, and thriving environment for both you and your child. The key is to have an open mind and to keep a positive perspective.
That’s not to say things won’t still be hard at times, but acknowledging that it’s okay for things to be hard and messy can help you better manage the challenges rather than breaking down and lashing out. It’s just as important for you to remain emotionally stable as it is for your kids if you want to better support their development.
This article will take a closer look at how ADHD affects children as well as offer helpful tips for how to better manage your child’s ADHD.
Understanding your child’s ADHD
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that causes children to be more hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive than what is considered usual for kids who are neurotypical. As such, ADHD not only makes development more of a challenge for kids, but it can also make parenting a child with ADHD more difficult.
Because children with ADHD have a harder time developing skills concerning their attention, behavior, activity, and emotions, they can also struggle socially and may develop anxiety and low self-esteem. This can also then cause them to have a hard time connecting with others and may also impact their performance in school.
However, despite the challenges ADHD presents, there are ways to manage it so that your child can thrive and have more success developing their skills. And the first step to ADHD management is understanding how it affects your child specifically.
Not all children with ADHD act the same as there are different subtypes, which include:
- Inattentive ADHD. Children with this subtype will exhibit inattentiveness but not hyperactivity or impulsivity.
- Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD. With this subtype, children are hyperactive and impulsive but not inattentive.
- Combination ADHD. Children with this subtype have both inattentiveness and hyperactivity.
Beyond understanding your child’s ADHD subtype, it’s also beneficial to understand their “fidget style.” Many children who have ADHD will have different fidgeting styles, and understanding these can also help you better understand how to manage them. These include:
- Busy hands. Children with this fidget style have an easier time focusing when they keep their hands occupied.
- Busy touch. This fidget style is helped by having certain textures to touch.
- Busy body. Children with this fidget style may need to get up and move their bodies around to help them focus.
- Busy mouth. A child with this fidget style likes to potentially chew on things with their mouth to help them focus.
Tips to help manage your child’s ADHD
Once you understand how ADHD specifically affects your child, you can start creating routines and an environment that is more conducive to their individual needs. Below, we’ll review some ADHD management tips that help get you started as you make changes to help your child grow, learn, and develop.
Set clear boundaries and rules
Because children with ADHD have a harder time focusing and are impulsive, they need very clear boundaries and rules to help them stay in line. Neurotypical kids might not need you to explain things often and in great detail, but ADHD kids do.
You need to be very specific and may need to frequently remind them of what the rules and boundaries are to help them. However, this does not mean you should be very stern and demanding with them all of the time. Flexibility and understanding are also important because mistakes will be made, and you don’t want your child always living in fear of punishment.
Provide structure and routine
Developing a consistent structure and routine surrounding chores, homework, and other daily activities is very important for kids who have ADHD. The more consistent their days are, the easier it will be for them to stay focused and avoid impulsive behaviors.
Just as rules and boundary setting need flexibility, however, so does structure. Stick to the routine as much as possible, but don’t forget to allow for breaks and time for them to release their energy. If your routines are too strict and demanding, they can have the opposite effect you desire.
Give praise and rewards
When your child does follow the rules, don’t forget to show appreciation and praise. While sticking to the rules might seem easy for neurotypicals, it can be extremely challenging for kids with ADHD. So you should show them that you appreciate all their hard work and effort by giving them praise and even by offering them rewards.
Encourage healthy habits
Developing healthy habits is crucial for kids with ADHD. Anyone can struggle when they are not eating right or getting enough sleep, but children with ADHD can struggle even more. So make sure they eat healthy meals and get enough sleep.
It’s also important to make sure they are getting enough exercise to release their energy and impulses. Additionally, because kids with ADHD may struggle to connect with others, it’s essential to help them find ways to socialize and make friends. Do not force them, however, or make them feel bad for not making friends. Instead, focus on positive encouragement.
As children with ADHD struggle to focus, the more distractions you can remove from their environment, the better. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have access to toys or entertainment, but their space should be clean and well organized to encourage productivity. The toys and entertainment can and still should be available for when they need breaks, but make sure they are tucked away, so they are “out of sight, out of mind” during times when they need to focus.
Make their bedroom a safe space
In addition to keeping the home well organized, it’s also helpful to make their bedroom a comforting and safe space to provide them with an optimal living environment. When they are potentially using up a lot of their mental capacity to keep themselves focused and following rules throughout the day, they need somewhere they can escape to as a release. Examples can include using calming color schemes and minimalist designs as well as using sensory-friendly fabrics.
Get them outside
There are numerous mental and physical health benefits to spending time outdoors, especially for children with ADHD. Not only can it help them develop an appreciation for nature, but it also gives them an opportunity to release their energy and get some exercise. So try to incorporate lots of time outside throughout the day or week whenever possible. This can include simple trips to local parks or even just running around in the yard, or more involved outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, or even camping trips.
These are just some of the many things you can do to help your child with ADHD thrive. Remember, every child is different, and the key is to keep an open mind and be willing to shift your perspective and parenting strategy to better suit their needs.
It’s also important to keep your own stress and mental health in check. Parental stress can have a negative effect on any child, but children with ADHD can be even more sensitive. So while your child’s well-being might be your number one priority, you can’t help them if you don’t also help yourself. The happier and more positive you are, the more happy and positive your child will be as well.