Wondering how to talk to your child about ADHD?
Put in your email below and you'll receive:
1. A brainstorming worksheet to use as you discuss ADHD
2. A self-care & positivity journal for reflecting together
Five things NOT tell your child with ADHD
When communicating with a child who has ADHD, it's important to be mindful of how you phrase things and what messages you convey. Here are some things you should avoid telling a child with ADHD:
1. "Why can't you just sit still and pay attention like everyone else?" This statement can make the child feel ashamed and like they are not living up to expectations.
2. "You're so lazy!" Children with ADHD often struggle with executive functioning, which can make it difficult to complete tasks. This statement is unfair and can make the child feel guilty for something beyond their control.
3. "You never listen to me!" Children with ADHD can struggle with listening and following directions, but it's important to remember that this is often due to challenges with attention and focus, not intentional disobedience.
4. "You're so forgetful!" Forgetfulness is a common symptom of ADHD, and shaming a child for it will only make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, try to work with them to develop strategies to help them remember things.
5. "Why can't you be more like your sibling/friend?" Comparing a child to others can be damaging to their self-esteem and can make them feel like they're not good enough.
Instead of using negative statements, try to use positive reinforcement and praise the child when they do well. Focus on their strengths and try to work with them to develop strategies to help them overcome challenges. It's also important to be patient and understanding, as children with ADHD may need extra support and accommodations to thrive.
Five tips for talking to your child about ADHD
Explaining ADHD to a child can be challenging, but here are some tips to help make it easier:
Use age-appropriate language: Make sure to use language that your child can understand. Avoid using technical terms and focus on using words that your child is familiar with.
Use metaphors: One way to help a child understand ADHD is to use metaphors to describe how the brain works. For example, you might compare the brain to a race car that has a powerful engine but needs a skilled driver to steer it in the right direction.
Focus on the positive: While ADHD can be challenging, it's important to focus on the positive aspects of the condition as well. For example, you might talk about how people with ADHD are often creative and have lots of energy.
Address common misconceptions: Children with ADHD may have heard negative things about the condition from others. It's important to address these misconceptions and provide accurate information about ADHD.
Encourage questions: Finally, it's important to encourage your child to ask questions and express their feelings about ADHD. Encourage them to be open and honest, and provide a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings.
Here is an example script you can use to explain ADHD to a child:
"ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This means that your brain works a little differently than other people's brains. Sometimes it's hard for you to pay attention or sit still, even when you want to. But that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you! In fact, lots of people with ADHD are really smart and creative. We can work together to find ways to help you manage your energy and focus, so that you can be your best self."
If you suspect that your child may have ADHD, the first step is to talk to your child's pediatrician or family doctor. They can perform an exam, evaluate your child's symptoms, and refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Depending on your child's age and symptoms, your doctor may refer you to a child psychologist, a child psychiatrist, or a neurologist. These specialists can help with diagnosis and provide recommendations for treatment.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare for the conversation with your child's doctor:
Write down your concerns: Before your appointment, make a list of your child's symptoms and behaviors that you've observed. This can help you remember everything you want to mention and provide the doctor with important information.
Gather information: You may want to research ADHD and learn more about the symptoms and treatments. This can help you understand what to expect and prepare you for the conversation with the doctor.
Be prepared to answer questions: The doctor may ask you questions about your child's medical history, development, and behavior. Be prepared to answer these questions to the best of your ability.
Ask questions: It's important to ask questions if you're unsure about anything the doctor tells you. Make sure you understand the diagnosis and treatment options, and ask about any concerns you may have.
Remember, getting a diagnosis of ADHD can be a process, and it may take some time to get a clear picture of your child's symptoms and needs. Be patient, and work with your child's doctor and other specialists to find the best approach for your child.
Who should I talk to if I think my child has ADHD?
At what age do you tell your child they have ADHD?
The decision about when to tell a child that they have ADHD is a personal one and depends on the child's age and level of understanding. However, in general, it's recommended that children be told about their ADHD diagnosis at an age-appropriate level.
For young children, it may be enough to explain that they have a condition that makes it harder to pay attention or sit still sometimes. You might focus on the positive aspects of ADHD, such as how it can make them creative and energetic, and reassure them that there is nothing wrong with them.
As children get older, they may have more questions and be better able to understand the specifics of their diagnosis. You might explain to them what ADHD is and how it affects their brain, and talk about the different treatment options that are available. You can also encourage them to ask questions and express their feelings about the condition.
It's important to be honest and open with your child about their diagnosis, but also to be sensitive to their feelings and level of understanding. Remember that children with ADHD may have challenges with attention and impulsivity, so it's important to give them clear, concise information and to provide ongoing support and guidance as they navigate their diagnosis.