Raising a Child with ADHD

Do you have a child with Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and feel like you’re in over your head? ADHD can be an overwhelming condition, but with the right support and guidance, it is possible to create successful outcomes for your children. With these tips on raising a child with ADHD, you’ll learn how to provide important resources and develop effective strategies that will make life happier—for your entire family! So if you’ve ever asked yourself “How do I help my son or daughter deal with the challenges of living with ADHD?” then this blog post was created just for you.

Raising a Child with ADHD

This article focuses on how to cope with everyday occurrences in the lives of families affected by ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Often, it is the small considerations that make life easier or much more difficult for such a family. At the end of this article, We will give a few links to websites and listserves which allow individuals to share their own experiences of “what works.” However, one should remember that each individual is unique (this is doubly true for individuals with ADHD) and each family needs to work out its own coping strategies.

What is ADHD?

What is ADHD and how does it show itself in elementary-school-aged children? Northern County Psychiatric Associates (NCPA) suggests that the behaviors fall into three general categories. These are impulsivity, inattentiveness, and physical hyperactivity. Not all individuals with ADHD have the hyperactive component. Because other conditions, such as anxiety and learning disabilities, can mimic ADHD, one must approach the diagnosis carefully.

Accepting the Diagnosis

Many families go through a period of uncertainty during the time leading up to the eventual diagnosis. The experience of “getting diagnosed” is powerful and can either be a blessed relief or a crushing blow. Many parents experience this as a loss and need to go through a process of mourning so that they can eventually accept their child as he or she is.

The classic stages of mourning, denial, anger, grief and acceptance all apply here. Parents and teachers may have different perspectives on this phase of the process of acceptance. The professionals need to be patient with parents as they come to terms with their child’s condition. They should not be too quick to pathologize parents who become emotional or angry in meetings. Some of the nicest, most conscientious parents may become angry and tearful in meetings.

Parents and children may go through repeated episodes of mourning as they experience the effects of the ADHD in different settings and at different ages. Community support is important during and after the time of the initial diagnosis. It is easy for a family to become overworked or overwhelmed. At such a point, the family might be tempted to withdraw into itself just when support is most needed. Extended family can be an important source of support, but can sometimes also be a source of tension. Parents often feel that extended family members do not understand the situation. Educating grandparents and extended family can take time.

How to Treat ADHD Child?

Treating an ADHD child can be a difficult and challenging task, but it is important to remember that with the right strategies, parents can help their children manage the condition and live happy, healthy lives. The first step in how to deal with ADHD is to think about how you can help the child at home. Taking specific steps to create a calm and supportive environment, providing structure and positive reinforcement, and focusing on strengthening attention span are all effective tools for helping an hyperactive child succeed.

Working closely with teachers and school personnel is also important so that both home-based efforts and school-related accommodations for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can work together. Making sure that your ADHD child is getting the care they need from both home and school should always be part of your plan on how to treat this condition. In the next paragraph, we will provide you with the working technics for raising a child with ADHD.

Behavioral Planning

In the home, structure and behavioral planning are often helpful. One has to tread a careful line so that one does not squelch the spontaneous child too much. Complex behavioral plans may look good on paper, but often do not last long in the rush of the real world. The key components of a good behavior plan are simplicity, consistency and frequent rewards. A weekly reward does not mean much to an impulsive child with a short attention span.

If the child chooses to work toward a larger reward, he should receive tokens as incremental steps toward the goal. The plan should reward incremental improvements in behavior. Any plan that expects an immediate cessation of undesirable behavior is doomed. A good plan is set up so that the child is able to achieve some measure of incremental success the first day. Parents are often tempted to use corporal punishment because they feel that nothing less will get a child’s attention.

Actually, NCPA recommends parents avoid such punishment in ADHD children because they are impulsive and more likely to imitate a violent act. One must be extra careful to avoid teaching them to resolve conflicts with violence. Parents must also walk the tightrope of advocating for appropriate accommodations yet also teaching their child to have a sense of personal responsibility for their actions.

Childproofing

In many ADHD children, particularly the hyperactive ones, there can be serious safety considerations. Impulsivity is a common feature of ADHD and it may manifest itself in climbing tall trees, getting into medicine cabinets, and playing with power tools. Their motor hyperactivity makes them quite fast, and they can be into tremendous trouble in the time it takes a parent to load laundry into the washing machine.

Some ADHD children have coordination and balance disorders, but do not have the judgement to accommodate to their difficulties. Many people think of childproofing as only for families with babies. All families should probably childproof to some extent until everyone goes to college. This is especially important for families affected by ADHD. Many family crises could be minimized if valuable breakable objects were locked safely away.

Certain stain-repellant paints, vinyl wallpaper, and carpet treatments make accidents less costly. Linoleum with the pattern printed through the entire thickness of the material is less likely to show scratches. Sometimes one can plan indoor traffic patterns to keep muddy feet off certain surfaces.

Although a family may have their own house well childproofed, the grandparents may not have their breakables out of the way. It is often best to discuss childproofing plans before the visit. If it is not possible to get the breakables out of the way, bring your own games and toys, or plan to play outside as much as possible.

Dealing with emergency rooms

Children with ADHD are at increased incidence of injuries and fractures. ER personnel refer to individuals who turn up repeatedly as “frequent fliers.” If you have an accident-prone child, have an emergency plan. One parent taking an injured child and two other active children to an emergency room can itself be dangerous. Are there neighbors who could watch the other kids while you seek medical care? Ask your pediatrician to recommend the best emergency room.

Some emergency rooms are better than others at handling injured children. If ER personnel are especially nice, write a nice thank-you letter to the administrator of the ER. Same to ambulance crew etc. Multiple or odd fractures can raise the issue of child abuse. Being investigated for child abuse can be humiliating and adds to the stress of dealing with an injured child. Discuss this in advance with your pediatrician and make sure the pediatrician calls the ER to let them know you are on your way.  Insist that the emergency room physicians contact your pediatrician so that he or she can discuss the case with them. If you do get investigated, try to be calm. Have a spouse or close friend with you for emotional support.

Takeaways

Children with ADHD require extra care and patience when being raised. With the right knowledge and tools, any parent can raise their child properly despite this obstacle. Make sure to accept the diagnosis, do your research on how to best deal with behavioral issues that may arise, plan for different eventualities such as accidents, and be understanding towards your child’s condition. By following these steps you’ll set yourself and your child up for success.

References

  1. You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? By Kelly and Ramundo
  2. Driven to Distraction by Hallowell and Ratey
  3. The Hyperactive Child, Adolescent and Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Through the Lifespan by Wender
  4. Attention Deficit Disorder, A Different Perception by Hartmann
  5. ADHD in the Schools, Assessment and Intervention Strategies by DuPaul and Stoner. Written for Children
  6. Eagle Eyes (A child’s Guide to Paying Attention) by Gehret
  7. Otto Learns About His Medication by Galvin
  8. Distant Drums, Different Drummers by Ingersol
  9. I’m Somebody Too By Gehret  (for siblings)

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