October 9, 2020: October is ADHD Awareness Month. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, you’re no stranger to parenting with frequent frustration, worry, shame, and exhaustion. You know what? Your child is living with all of that, too. You know what else? Both you and your child can live with more confidence and less frustration with a few changes. Check out these tips:
1. Develop a positive mindset. How you view your child, their diagnosis, and yourself as a parent have a huge impact on your family’s health and happiness. If you carry shame or self-blame for your child’s ADHD, know that it’s not your fault and that you can work through your thoughts and feelings on your own or in #counseling. Another important mindset shift is to separate your child from their “bad” behaviors. All children want to do well in life, and they will if they can. Kids with ADHD often lack the skills they need to do well in many situations, so having supportive adults to teach skills and boost confidence helps everyone involved. Notice their strengths and foster them.
2. Have expectations for your child. Kids and teens with ADHD often have the behavioral bar set lower than their peers. Don’t let your kid off the hook all the time because things seem difficult, or you feel guilty. When adults don’t hold expectations for a child, it can result in low self-esteem, anger or depression. Having responsibilities like reasonable chores and manners lets your child know that you believe in their ability to meet those expectations, and that they are an important contributor to their world.
3. Create structure. Having daily routines and established ways to do things means you and your child have a few less things to think about. That energy can be used toward learning new skills, regulating emotions, and solving problems. Following routines can also help your child increase confidence, be more independent, and feel less anxious.
4. Use positive reinforcement and discipline. Praise and reward your child for behaviors and skills you want them to do more of like learning to calm themselves, completing tasks, compromising with others, etc. Be clear and consistent in your expectations of their behaviors, and establish enforceable consequences that are logically connected to negative behaviors (ex: a child throws a box of cereal, they need to clean it up). Help your child understand their behaviors and consequences both positive and negative by talking about them away from highly charged emotions.
5. Break things down. ADHD is largely an executive functioning issue. Most kids are overwhelmed by or don’t understand instructions like “Do your homework” or “Clean your room”. They need help by having those vague tasks broken down into smaller step-by-step pieces. You can do this with pictures of each step or check-lists depending on your child’s age. This goes for social situations, too, like learning to pay attention to conversational exchanges, facial expressions, body language, and environmental context.