When your child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a neurological issue that often persists for a lifetime, even everyday tasks can be a mighty challenge. Several parents who are in this situation feel frustrated and helpless, because they have difficulty dealing with the kids’ behavior.
We spoke to a few experts, who shared helpful tips on how to handle children with ADD in a healthy, loving way:
- Dr Keri Chiappino of the New Life Wellness Center in New York and Smithtown, Long Island shares that extra love, patience and understanding, as well as a nurturing environment and proper therapy can help children with ADD/ADHD navigate in the world and achieve their maximal potential.
- Effective natural therapies that don’t involve drugs offer better alternatives. Eliminate pesticide exposure by switching to a natural, mostly organic diet (free of food dyes, sugar, preservatives and additives), conduct tests for gluten, dairy or other allergies, and transition to an appropriate diet free of allergens.
- Have them exercise regularly. Studies show that children with ADHD showed improved symptoms after playing outside in a natural environment. They are already forced to sit still and focus in school, which is especially difficult for them. Physical activity helps channelize their energies in the right way.
- Ensure they get better quality of sleep, and limit the hours spent on video games and TV.
- Dr Timothy Gunn, a pediatric neuropsychologist based in Southern California, who works with children with ADHD, says that his biggest recommendation is for families to be organized, structured and active so that the child with ADHD can get used to the household routines, and know what is going to be expected of them.
- He advocates that parents should be encouraging, and should seek the help of parent support groups and other community resources such as www.chadd.com.
Rosellen Reif, who exclusively counsels people and families affected by developmental disabilities like ADHD, offers these practical and useful tips for parents:
- Set A Schedule: Yes, it’s critical that kids with ADD/ADHD keep to a schedule, but it’s just as important that their parents do so too. Schedule date nights to connect with your spouse without interruption, as well as one-on-one time with the child’s siblings to let them talk honestly about any difficulties they might face. Be realistic about what you can agree to take on.
- Get Help: Even though other people may offer to help by babysitting, you might be uncomfortable with leaving your child in someone else’s care. Make a list of all the alternative ways in which you would use some assistance, such as picking up your dry cleaning or taking your dog for a walk, and keep it handy so that when help is offered, you can gently suggest these chores without feeling guilty.
- Don’t Order, Suggest: Structured choice is the key to avoiding power struggles with your child, so telling them something in a threatening tone will likely lead to a meltdown. Instead, try using a purely observational tone and gentle suggestions, perhaps with a time-frame, so your child knows they have to finish a certain task within a fixed time but without being provoked.
- Be The Example: It’s easier if you model for your child the routine that you want them to build. This might mean that when she sits down to complete homework, you sit next to her to pay bills and answer emails. Suggest scheduled breaks, and use this time to chat about what you’ll accomplish in the next chunk of work time. Plan something enjoyable for you both after you’ve finished working, as an incentive.
- Keep It Timely: Have clocks in designated places throughout your home, especially rooms where your child is likely to become distracted. Particularly for younger children, purchase the same digital clock to have in multiple rooms of the home, so that the child is used to checking their time in the same way in every room. This small change can have big impacts for families affected by ADHD.
- Feel The Burn: Children with ADHD often have extra energy to burn so ensure that they do so in sports that suit their strengths, like soccer or inline skating, which require constant, intentional movement. Play with them so that they can use this time to bond with you.
- Keep Control At Bedtime: Be vigilant in creating and sticking to a bedtime routine. Kids with ADHD have a very difficult time calming down at the end of the day. Because of the importance of sleep in maintaining their energy and attentiveness throughout the day, try to maintain a routine. Tucking in your child can work wonders to calm them, lull them into sleep readiness, and also reinforce the love you have for each other, especially if it’s been a difficult day in parent-child interactions. Avoid keeping more than a few toys in the child’s room, as they will oftentimes choose play over sleep; even if they are exhausted.
Children with ADD/ADHD are simply wired a little differently than other kids, but they can learn to handle their time and space, if only you can allow them to make mistakes along the way. Be kind and patient with them, and with yourself. Accept that your child challenges you, and commit to giving them a calm, organized role model to look up to, as they learn how to manage their impulses.
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