Tips for Parenting a Child With ADHD
Whether you are wondering if your child has an attention problem or if he or she already has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you likely have experienced a number of challenging and perplexing behaviors and situations.
The brains of children with ADHD work differently than an “average” child. As a parent you need to identify, understand and work within this new construct to help your child develop the necessary strategies to support their success in school and everyday situations.
I speak from experience. My step-daughter, Laurie, came into my life when I began dating my husband. She was eight years old, in second grade, creative, imaginative, fun and nuts about horses. Although she liked going to school, her performance was inconsistent. Her academic struggles became more pronounced when she transitioned from elementary to middle school.
We suspected she had an attention problem and, after some research, determined she likely had the inattentive type of ADHD, which often becomes more pronounced for girls a bit later in school. She was tested and officially diagnosed with ADHD at age 14.
There are a number of things I learned as we worked with her, gathered information, and gleaned resources over the years.
Seek to Understand
ADHD is hard-wired into the brain and is accompanied by a variety of difficulties. It’s important to know that many behaviors and actions of children with ADHD are not intentional or spiteful. Understanding how your child’s brain works provides a guideline for you to develop realistic expectations of them and to design helpful tools that will allow them to experience success and accomplishment.
Testing Can Bring Relief
When Laurie’s ADHD was officially diagnosed, she felt as if she had a context to understand what she experienced and a way to describe to others where her challenges lie. It allowed us, as parents, to get her important accommodations in school and a reason to explain behaviors we didn’t understand initially.
Medication Has Ups and Downs
If your child gets diagnosed, you will need to decide whether to pursue medication to help manage the symptoms. Some children love that their ADHD medications give them the ability to self-regulate their behaviors and attention more effectively. Other children say the medication doesn’t allow them to feel like themselves. There are a variety of medication options available. Only through trial and error and open discussion with your child and doctor will you be able to determine the best path for your child and family.
Research shows that children with ADHD fare best long term through a multi-pronged approach. Medication for symptom relief is one element but needs to be combined with education about the condition, parent assistance in behavior management, and educational/classroom support. Communicate regularly with your child’s teacher and develop a behavior plan together with consequences and rewards that can be enforced in both environments. If behavior issues persist, and a more formal plan seems necessary, talk to the school about doing a Functional Behavior Assessment. A Behavior Intervention Plan may be what’s needed.