*This is a guest post from Vee Cecil. She is a Kentucky girl, like me! I love her article about ADHD because two of our four children have been diagnosed with this, and I have the disorder too. After reading her post, visit her blog. She is in the process of writing a book! Go Vee!
No parent wants anything to be “wrong” with their child, so it’s natural for an ADHD diagnosis to be scary. The best first step for your child with ADHD, and your other children, is to think about how the diagnosis will affect everyone in your family. Of course, there is no one best way to handle ADHD because every child is different. But here are some general do’s and don’ts for parents to consider:
Do’s for Parents of Children with ADHD
- Be Honest With Your Child. Kids are intuitive, and they should trust their parents. That’s why being honest from the beginning of the ADHD journey is so important. Labels and differences are scary for kids. Explaining ADHD helps them understand that their symptoms are not their fault. It also helps them to understand that ADHD is part of who they are, and that it is something they can control, with their parents’ help.
- Keep a Positive Attitude. Children with ADHD need support. They look to their parents as models. Being positive and focusing on your ADHD child’s strengths will help him to feel better about his diagnosis and face his challenges in a more motivated way. Channel his hyperactivity into positive experiences, such as physical activities like yoga, running, or playing with the family dog, which has great benefits for children with ADHD. Build upon his strengths and boost his self-esteem so that he is better equipped to handle his more challenging days.
- Work to Improve the Families’ Communication Skills. Arguing is one of the most challenging problems families of ADHD kids face. Dr. Robert Myers, child psychologist, notes that ADHD kids argue often, overreact when they hear “no,” have less tolerance for things they consider to be unfair, and often are impatient and loud.
This combination causes a great deal of stress for the whole family. But, there are steps that parents can take to maintain a more peaceful, calm household by improving the family’s communication skills. Dr. Myers’ tips include developing a nonverbal prompt to remind the ADHD child that it is time to listen and not interrupt, understanding that it is okay to disagree, establishing that the parents are in charge, and rewarding positive discussions.
- Optimize Your Child’s Living Space. Most kids have problems keeping their room clean, but for children with ADHD a messy room can increase stress and worsen problems they have with disorganization. To help make their room a place where they can unwind and relax, paint it a soothing color and remove as many distractions (toys, electronics, and other clutter) from the area as possible. Having a room that is well-organized and tidy will make it a soothing environment for them, which will add to their overall well-being.
Don’ts for Parents of Children with ADHD
- Don’t Overreact to Meltdowns – Respond Appropriately. Meltdowns are loud and stressful, and parents sometimes exacerbate the situation by losing their cool. This escalates their child’s response even further. Parents must respond to meltdowns appropriately, rather than overreacting. The best course of action is to have a behavior plan in place and follow it consistently. Calm down and listen to your child to determine and solve the problem together.
- Don’t Cater to Your Child with ADHD. It can be extremely difficult to strike a balance between supporting your child with ADHD and doing too much for him or her. It can be a struggle for parents to spend quality time as a family and plan activities that everyone will enjoy if they spend too much time addressing the needs of their ADHD child.
For this reason, it is important to educate and involve the whole family in understanding ADHD. Everyone should know the behavior plan and expectations, but parents should not expect siblings to be stand-in parents or disciplinarians. Make it a priority to spend quality time with all of your children and praise all of their achievements and successes.
- Don’t Use ADHD as an Excuse. ADHD is a disorder that will affect your child and your family. However, parents cannot use ADHD as an excuse or allow their ADHD child to do so. In order to be successful, your child will need to meet his responsibilities and complete tasks as any other child does. He cannot blame failure or poor grades on ADHD. Rather, parents must help their child learn to cope with ADHD and utilize strategies for success instead of accepting failure and blaming it on the disorder.
The list of dos and don’ts for parents of kids with ADHD could go on forever. The most important thing for parents to remember is that the symptoms and behaviors are manageable, as long as everyone works together, and puts in the time and effort to build upon strengths and minimize challenges. The entire family will benefit from addressing ADHD as a team.
Vee Cecil is a personal trainer and Kentucky native who is passionate about personal health and well-being. She writes about wellness on her blog while enjoying life with her husband and two children.