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Tackling ADHD at Home

Child having problem with concentrationThe first 8 weeks of school have finally come and gone and it’s time for that first parent-teacher conference.  It’s going really well until you hear those dreaded comments about your precious kid- “They’re having a really hard time staying on task.” “They are constantly getting out of their seat and just can’t seem to sit still.” “I’m constantly redirecting them back to their work.”  You’re not surprised though.  You see the same things at home.  You’re constantly having to remind them to finish their chores because they got distracted playing with their toys.  They’re always misplacing things.  Getting ready in the morning is always a nightmare.  The teacher never used the phrase ADHD but you know that’s what she was hinting at.

For most parents, parenting a child with ADHD is both frustrating and rewarding.  In spite of the challenges, kids with ADHD are typically more creative, they think outside the box, passionate about their interests, and full of personality.  The day to day routine of wake up, homework and getting to activities on time, however, can make you want to pull your hair out.  Some parents choose to go the medication route first and for a lot of kids, it is needed.  Other parents want to try non-medication interventions first.  There isn’t a right or wrong way to go.  Whatever you choose, there are some thing you can do as a parent to help your child and yourself cope with the inevitable struggles that comes with ADHD.  Here are my top 5 tips.

  1. Keep a predictable routine going at home. For example, keep wake up times and bedtimes consistent.  Have the same after school routine such as snack first, start homework by 3:30, and take a short break every 20 minutes.
  2. Keep the rules simple and consistent. For example, “treat others with respect” is easy to understand and covers a lot of different behaviors.  Some may think that is too broad but it’s actually too hard for kids with ADHD to remember lots of different little rules.  It’s also hard for you, the parent, to keep track of them all.  Therefore, keep it simple for your sake and theirs.  Don’t forget to reward the behaviors you want to see more of as immediately as possible.
  3. Help them stay organized. Color-code their folders according to subjects.  Clean out their book bag weekly.  Have a consistent spot in the house where everything goes.  Sometimes it may feel like you have to hold their hand on everything in order to keep them organized.  However, if you hold their hand in the beginning, do it regularly and consistently, they will develop a habit of their own over time.
  4. Incorporate movement breaks during the day. Let them stand to do their homework or sit on an exercise ball.  Take a break every 20 minutes and let them stand up, move around, or even go outside.  Ask the teacher to send them on “errands” during the day.  You will get far more out of them if you work in more movement into their day.  Also, sign them up for at least one activity that involves movement.
  5. Take time to really connect with your kid. Set aside time each week to just play with them.  Let them lead the play and pay attention.  Give them your undivided attention.  The more you know your kid, the more you know about what they need.  When you can anticipate how they will handle something, you can work on setting them up for success.

There are tons of resources out there for families with children who have ADHD.  Educate yourself, partner with their teachers, and make sure you have your own support system to lift your spirits on the rough days. Believe me, you are not alone in this journey.  If you’re not sure how to proceed, help is available.  Reach out to your child’s teacher or school counselor.  If you think your child needs to be tested for ADHD, contact a psychologist who specializes in working with kids. If therapy is needed, seek out a child therapist with training and experience in play therapy.  All of these professionals can help both you and your child achieve success.

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