Updated: Apr 10
By Stephanie Bayona M.S. Ed, ET and Sean McCormick, M. Ed, ET
Parenting a child with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is no easy task. Oftentimes, daily life can prove to be overwhelming and frustrating for the whole family, especially because of the nature of symptoms in those with ADHD or ADD. The impulsivity, inattention, and phone calls from teachers can render you desperate for solutions. As a parent, you may feel helpless or confused about how to support your child at home, or even feel like there is nothing you can do.
The good news is that there are MANY ways you can help your child manage their symptoms and bring serenity to your home. It is important to first understand that as frustrating as it may be for you to handle your child’s ADHD, it is even more frustrating for them who have to live with it and might not even understand it. As difficult as it may be, it is imperative that you show compassion and patience as you and your child learn to navigate life with ADHD.
Here are 5 simple things you can do at home to support your child:
1. Establish clear and specific routines and structure at home and stick to them
Children thrive when given structure and clear, specific expectations. This is especially true for a child with ADHD. They need to know exactly what others expect of them, and do not do well with having to “read between the lines” with expected behaviors. Parents should learn proactive—not reactive—discipline methods that teach and reward appropriate behavior. Positive reinforcement should be the focus of your behavior system, and can include things such as: creating a behavior chart that they can track, verbal praise and positive comments when good behavior is exhibited, and being rewarded with privileges and activities rather than food or toys. It is important that all the people who care for your child work together to be as consistent as possible with behavioral techniques across settings and caregivers.
2. Encourage movement and physical activity
To help burn off their extra energy, sign up your child for a preferred sport or club that will help them stay active. This can also help a child focus their attention on specific movements, which may decrease impulsivity. Exercise may also help to improve concentration, decrease the risk for depression and anxiety, and stimulate the brain in healthy ways.
3. Encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits
Although diet is not a direct cause of ADHD, food can affect your child’s mental state, which in turn affects their behavior. It is important to provide healthy, nutritious foods for your child, as well as structured meals and snacks throughout the day. The impulsiveness and distractedness of children with ADHD can lead to missed meals, disordered eating, and overeating, which means sugary, fatty, and unhealthy snacks would be their first pick.
Sleep is extremely vital for all children, and this is especially true for children with ADHD. Unfortunately, due to their attention problems and overstimulation, children with ADHD tend to have trouble falling asleep. A consistent, early bedtime is the most helpful strategy to combat this problem, but it may not completely solve it. Try other things such as limiting technology use at least an hour before bedtime and replacing that time with quieter activities such as reading or coloring.
4. Help your child develop their social skills
Children with ADHD may struggle with simple social situations and interactions. They may feel rejected by their peers because of their impulsive and hyper behavior. Teach your child about acceptable social behaviors, such as eye contact, being a good listener, and interpreting body language and facial expressions. This will take time and lots of practice, so role playing with different social situations may be a fun way to teach them about this. Always reward good behavior and praise them when they behave appropriately with others. You can sign up for parent training and support courses by clicking here.
5. Be their number one cheerleader!
As their parent, you are your child’s first line of defense and their source of comfort and stability. It is important for your child to feel that you support them and that they can depend on you to be their guide to help get through the tough days and daily struggles. Verbally express your unconditional support and love for them often. Children with ADHD often have low self-esteem and a negative self-perception due to the challenges and struggles they face, so it is important for you to emphasize all of their achievements and avoid the notion that success is strictly tied to academics or their level of productivity. Acknowledge your child’s strengths and give them ample opportunity to showcase them as a way of building their sense of pride and accomplishment. Always focus on the positive and let them know that you believe in them!
If you’d like more information about how EF Specialists can help support you and your child with ADHD coaching and other services, contact firstname.lastname@example.org today!