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8 Practical Tips for Parents of Kids with ADHD

8 Practical Tips for Parents of Kids with ADHD

I’m going to make this quick, since you parents with ADHD kids don’t exactly have the time or luxury of sitting around with your feet up, enjoying quiet and leisurely reading. But the school year is back upon us, and I figured you could use a “Great job! You’re doing a wonderful job at something that is RIDICULOUSLY HARD!” as well as a few tips:

1. Manage your expectations

Assuming your child has been evaluated properly, he/she has a legitimate neurological condition that impairs planning, organization, impulse control, focus, and attention. ADHD is not something that can be CURED, but rather, is a condition that can be managed with teaching strategies, making accommodations, practicing difficult skills, and sometimes, medication.

Sometimes parents think that their children “should” be able to follow through on cleaning their room, finish a whole worksheet without being distracted, remember their notebooks, and keep their hands to themselves when reminded. However, these expectations may be unrealistic without interventions and accommodations. And most importantly, these difficulties are due to neurological differences, and do not indicate poor parenting efforts on your part.

2. Meet them where they’re at (AKA provide “accommodations” even at home.)

In the event that a child is unable to stay on task, focus, sit still, organize, control impulses, or plan on his own, parents are tasked with creating accommodations. An “accommodation” is basically a way to assist a child so that he/she can ultimately be successful. At school, that may be anything from the child sitting in the front row away from his friends, to a sticker chart, or to a one-on-one aid.

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Eventually, some accommodations are reduced as the child learns how to attend, focus, organize, control impulses, and plan on his/her own. However, sometimes a child learns how to create his/her own accommodations to continue to use into adulthood. Calendars, alarms, digital prompters, post-it-notes, manipulatives/fidget objects, to-do lists, keeping an incredibly structured routine (homework immediately after school), and mental tricks to use when bored are all examples of commonly used accommodations that kids with ADHD can continue to use into adulthood.

Often the accommodations necessary at home are demanding of the parents. Like when “meeting him where he’s at” requires you to first help him organize all the steps necessary for him to finish his homework, then sit with him in a quiet room during home-work time and give frequent verbal prompts to stay on task. Or when “meeting him where he’s at” includes standing in his bedroom and giving him re-directions every 90 seconds as he holds his written list of tasks (#1. Throw all trash away #2.Put dirty clothes in hamper #3. Clean clothes in drawer #4. Put toys in box #5. Bring plates and dishes downstairs).

3. Recruit Help

In cases where a child needs constant one-on-one assistance/frequent re-directions (if you turn away for two seconds Jimmy will be hanging from the chandelier, and you need to be there to provide negative reinforcement if not to prevent him for cracking his skull open), I often recommend recruiting help. What parent is able to cook dinner, attend to siblings, and live any sort of life if constant re-directions and behavioral interventions are necessary for one (or more) of the children?

This might sound crazy, but what’s crazier is NOT doing it: For about an hour a day, preferably during a time which every day is designated to chores and homework, get HELP. Yes, that’s right. Recruit a paid (high-schooler in the neighborhood for $5/hour?) or unpaid (Aunt Martha?) parent’s helper to help the child organize and stay on task while doing daily chores and homework.

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Discuss with the “helper” the accommodations and interventions that you do with your child (These can be suggested by the child’s therapist. Some examples are: rewarding every two minutes of focus with a sticker, providing exercise breaks every ten minutes, providing visual, not verbal, re-direction cues, spraying him with a squirt bottle when he stops attending– just kidding. Really, but that reminds me that a sense of humor is sometimes all that gets you through it.) This helper will then, for that hour, be responsible for instilling accommodations, rewards, and consequences when necessary.

4. Work closely with your child’s therapist

If you never hear about what your child is supposed to be working on or how you are supposed to be assisting your child with ADHD, I suggest you check in with the therapist to make sure parental involvement is part of the treatment plan.  Parental involvement NEEDS to be part of the treatment plan for ADHD (and if there are no mood or self esteem issues present in the child– two things that often accompany the ADHD diagnosis– the BULK of the therapy may include the parent).

Your child’s therapist can assist you in creating reasonable and appropriate accommodations for home, and decide when and how it makes sense to gradually give your child more independence. The therapist can also help you navigate behavioral expectations, rewards and consequences which are both realistic and hold the child accountable for growth.

5. Practice self-awareness and self-soothing

There is nothing like a child with ADHD to test a parent’s every last nerve! The worst thing a parent can do is anger to shut a child down or destroy his motivation to keep trying. And unfortunately, frustration and anger are often reactions to dealing with a child who struggles with compliance.

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Parents with ADHD kids often have similar “anger triggers” when they deal with their child. I often hear parents admit that their “trigger” thoughts (the split-second thoughts that fuel their anger) are “He SHOULD be able to do this,” “He’s not going to be successful,” and “I must have failed as a parent.” Pay attention to which thoughts make you even more angry, and replace them with something more realistic such as, “He is doing what he can and I am doing what I can.” Then, in-the-moment, practice self-soothing, such as taking deep breaths or deliberately tensing up and releasing individual muscles when you feel yourself getting angry.

6. Prioritize your child’s sleep, exercise, and nutrition as well as your own

You know how your child does best when he exercises, sleeps adequately, and stays away from sugar? Well, you will be your calmest, most emotionally-resilient, and most patient when you have also taken care of yourself. (Side note: Some parents notice behavioral differences when their kids abstain from certain dyes or gluten, but I always suggest these dietary changes with caution, since I have also heard parents claim they noticed no difference at all when these items are removed.)

7. Validate yourself frequently

Remind yourself that it makes sense to feel the way you feel. It’s okay and understandable to feel exhausted, angry, alone, afraid, and powerless. It is hard work to attempt to teach and manage a child with ADHD, and I say “attempt,” because in some moments, teaching and managing is not even possible. It makes sense that some days you just want to shut the door of your room and stay in bed and cry.

Also, validate your behaviors. It makes sense that you lose your patience sometimes. It makes sense that you make mistakes sometimes, and don’t have all the answers and solutions all the time. You can feel and do all of that and STILL be doing an amazing job.  (I’m pretty sure you are doing a superb job, in fact, as evidenced by the fact that you are even reading this article!)

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8. Seek support

Seek support in your marriage (if you are married), and seek support in your close relationship(s). When you need support, take a deep breath and tell someone how you are feeling (frustrated, powerless and afraid?). And then tell them what you need: Just listen, hug me, hold my hand, give me an afternoon to nap.

And I often suggest in couples therapy, that partners directly ask, “Just tell me I’m not crazy for feeling the way I feel. It makes sense to you that I feel this way, right?” (This is also known as asking for validation; There is no shame in asking for validation, especially when friends or husbands that don’t read my blog, give you a deer-in-headlights look when you betray your vulnerable emotions.) There are also support groups for parents who have children with ADHD, and multiple Facebook pages offering a supportive community. There is something powerfully rejuvenating about hearing other people truly understand your struggles and knowingly rejoice with you in your triumphs.

So in conclusion, parents who must be doing an amazing job since you are, in fact, invested in your child enough to be reading this blog, great job and best of luck!

Featured photo credit: tangle_eye via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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