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Tips for Parents of Children With ADHD

  Source: Article first appeared on KK Women's and Children's hospital (KKH) website  

What to do when your child has an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

Managing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be a constant challenge for parents. You may need to change your living habits to help your child and family cope with ADHD. Here are some useful tips for parenting a child with ADHD.

Organise your schedule at home

Set up specific times for waking up, eating, playing, doing homework and house chores, watching TV or playing video games and going to bed. Write those timings on a blackboard or a piece of paper and hang it where your child will always see it. If your child can't read yet, use drawings or symbols to show the activities of each day. Explain any changes in routine in advance. Make sure your child understands the changes.

Set up house rules

Keep house rules simple, clear and short. Rules should be explained clearly. It's important to explain what will happen when rules are obeyed and when they are broken. Write down the rules and consequence of not following them. Hang this list next to the schedule. The punishment for breaking rules should be fair, quick and consistent.

Be consistent

Only promise what you will deliver. Do what you say you will do. Repeating instructions and requests many times doesn't work well with children with ADHD. When your child breaks the rules, warn only once in a quiet voice. If the warning does not work, follow through with the punishment that you promised. Avoid physical punishment. This often makes matters worse.

Be positive

Tell your child what you want rather than what you don't want. Reward your child regularly for good behaviour - even little things such as getting dressed quickly. Children with ADHD often spend most of their day being told what they are doing wrong. They need to be praised for good behaviour.

Make sure your child understands your instructions

First, get your child's attention. Look directly into his or her eyes. Then tell your child in a clear and calm voice specifically what you want. Ask your child to repeat the instructions back to you. It's usually better to keep instructions simple and short. For difficult tasks, give only one or two instructions at a time. Then praise your child when he or she completes each step.

Keep your child supervised at all times

Because they are impulsive, children with ADHD need more daily adult supervision than others.

Watch your child around his friends

It's hard for children with ADHD to learn social skills and social rules. When choosing playmates for your child, it is better to find children with similar language and physical skills.

At first, invite only one or two friends at a time. Watch them closely while they play together. Reward good play behaviour often. Most of all, don't allow hitting, pushing and yelling.

Help them get ready for school

School mornings may be difficult for children with ADHD. Get ready the night before – lay out school clothes and pack the school bag. Allow enough time for your child to get dressed and eat a good breakfast. This is even more important if your child is really slow in the mornings.

Set up homework routine

Fix a spot at home that is away from distractions for doing homework. Break homework time into small parts and have breaks. Stop frequently for short and fun breaks that allow your child to do something enjoyable. Give your child lots of encouragement but let your child do the schoolwork.

Focus on effort, not grades

Reward your child when he finishes his schoolwork and not just for good grades. You can give extra rewards for earning better grades.

Take the time to listen to them as often as you can

Love them by touching, hugging, tickling or wrestling with them.

Look for and encourage their strengths, interests and abilities

Help them use their strengths to make up for any limitations or disabilities. Reward them with praise, good words and smiles.

Accept them for who they are

Accept their potential for growth and development. Be realistic in your expectations and demands. It is important that they progress at their own pace and be rewarded for doing so.

Explain when they misbehave; show them what good behaviour is

Tell them when they misbehave and explain how you feel about their behaviour. Have them propose other more acceptable ways of behaving. Show them what they should do. Don't nag! Be firm, fair and friendly. Define bad behaviour, tell them what happens when they misbehave and stick to fair rules. Talk to them firmly but be a friend.

Involve them in family matters

Involve them in making the rules, schedules and family activities. Give them reasonable chores and regular family duties whenever possible.

Develop their social and motor skills

Encourage them to ask questions, discuss or tell stories, and to reread stories. Provide toys and games that develop their motor skills. Help them focus by taking away as many distractions as possible. Give them areas in the home that are conducive to work, study and play.

Encourage them to be independent

Give them an allowance as early as possible and help them spend within it.

Help them become part of the community

Help them develop self-esteem and to compete with self rather than with others. Insist that they cooperate socially by playing, helping and serving others in the family and the community.

Get professional help if you need to

Lastly, don't hesitate to consult teachers or other specialists whenever you feel it necessary to help your child.

General tips to enhance your parent-child relationship

  • Try to set aside time on a regular basis to do something fun with your child.
  • Never disagree about discipline in front of the children. If one of you is disciplining a child and the other enters the room, the latter should not interfere.
  • Never give an order, request or command unless you are able to carry it out at that time.
  • Be consistent; reward or punish the same behaviour in the same manner as much as possible.
  • Agree on what behaviour is preferred and what is not. Agree on how to respond to bad behaviour. Make it as clear as possible what the child can expect if he or she behaves badly. Make it very clear what bad behaviour is.
  • Look for gradual changes in behaviour. Don’t expect too much. Praise behaviour that is coming closer to the desired goal.
  • Remember that your behaviour serves as a model for your children’s behaviour.
  • Reward your child’s good behaviour with verbal praise, touch or something tangible such as a toy, food or money.

Article contributed by:

KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH)

Ref: W09

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