Parenting children with ADHD demands additional energy and commitment beyond the already substantial requirements of parenthood. It can be overwhelming and exhausting at times, especially when your child’s traits differ from your own or when ADHD is a novel concept in your family.
If you resonate with this situation, rest assured that there are several strategies that can help streamline your daily routine while simultaneously enhancing your child’s potential for growth and development.
1. Create a routine for your child
Routines are a great way to provide structure for children and teens with ADHD.
You might feel that your child is being neglectful or disobedient due to their challenges in completing tasks or even remembering them altogether. While your child wants to avoid scolding and difficulties at home and at school, ADHD may prevent them from doing so.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may have a delay in the development of internal language that affects their working memory (necessary to carry out a sequence of actions) and their planning capacity.
By implementing a routine at home, you can help your child follow a series of steps necessary to complete their daily activities, in the long run this will hopefully lead to greater efficiency and self-confidence.
To successfully develop this strategy, follow these tips:
- Include simple and complex activities and set schedules and deadlines to complete them
- Break down the activities into separate parts and mention the steps and strategies required to complete each activity
- Separate the setting for each activity (Ex: different areas for playing, studying, doing chores)
- Make sure to include activities that are easier to complete because achieving them will help build self-confidence and may strengthen your child´s self-esteem
- Use positive reinforcement through age-appropriate rewards for your child
- Adapt the routine to the age of your child
- Involve your child in the process of organizing their routine
- Routines often require the commitment and collaboration of the whole family and your child may require a little more support at first
2. Watch what you include in your child’s diet
The diet that a person with ADHD should follow is a controversial topic. Some studies suggest that dyes, sugars, and gluten should be avoided; however, there is no solid evidence that avoiding these foods improves ADHD symptoms.
A balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables is recommended, as well as avoiding stimulating drinks such as soft drinks and coffee as they can exacerbate some ADHD symptoms. Parents are advised to be aware of foods that trigger reactions such as headache, upset stomach, weakness, or apathy as they could be related to food sensitivities. Removing these foods could alleviate certain ADHD symptoms.
Although there is no pre-established diet for people with ADHD, if you notice increased hyperactivity, irritability, or inattention after eating certain foods, it is advisable to avoid them. In cases where you notice other symptoms you may want to consult a specialist.
3. Reduce screen time
Scientific studies indicate that prolonged exposure to electronic devices is related to delayed language acquisition, poor development of cognitive functions, social isolation, hyperactivity, and inattention. For those with ADHD, prolonged screen time may exacerbate the symptoms already present in this neurodevelopmental disorder.
It is important to talk with your children about strategies with the use of electronic devices, so they learn to use them as tools and prevent them from becoming distractors or obstacles to achieving their goals.
Consider that it may be more difficult for a child with ADHD to discontinue an online video game or limit the use of social networks. Your child may even run risks to their health such as developing addictions to video games, experiencing sleep disorders, or anxiety.
- Specify the daily screen time
- Indicate which activities are encouraged during the day. You may use apps to help in this regard
- Try to avoid screen time one hour before bedtime to avoid screen time one hour before bedtime
- Avoid falling into “one more game,” “just a little more” and remain firm in your plan
4. Choose after school activities
One way to reduce ADHD symptoms during the day is to keep your child busy and engaged during the day. It is not about overloading them but complementing their day to day. Part of the routine should include physical activity and creative activities tailored to your child’s preferences.
The child should participate in choosing the activity or art. The objective is to promote social interaction, drain physical energy, encourage compliance with rules, etc. Supporting your child’s choice is a helpful way to implement this strategy successfully.
This also contributes to the balance between intellectual, recreational, and social activities. It may also be an effective means to help the integral development of the child and increase the opportunities for success in the future.
5. Build a strong coalition with the other adults at home
Finally, teaming up with the child’s authority figures is helpful in achieving goals. It’s essential to maintain a consistent and unified approach when communicating with your child. Refrain from undermining each other in front of the child, as this can sabotage efforts to establish structure and foster a sense of stability for them.
When trying to give structure to a child with ADHD, they may seek support from the other parent, grandparents, or other family members to get rid of the changes that are being implemented.
Success will depend on everyone having the same information and on the continued commitment to implement the strategies. It is recommended that adults meet to discuss the strategies to be implemented, so that when putting them into practice, everyone is on the same page.
Keep in mind that it is a long process that requires perseverance and commitment. Practice self-care and if you feel that at any point you lose focus, do not hesitate to seek professional help.
Edited by: Maddison Henley, PA-C