Parenting an ADHD Child (Part 4) by Paul Schandevel
The following article is taken from the Spring 2012 “Spectrum” magazine by Children’s Homes, Inc.
In the last issue, we explored two parenting tips for raising children diagnosed with ADHD. In this column, I’ll summarize five more. The first two tips were:
1. Consider medication but do your homework.
2. Stay positive and healthy yourself.
3. Set clear expectations and rules. Get “Family Rules” by Kenneth Kaye, PhD. It’s out of print but can be purchased at Amazon.com for less than $5.00. Part one shows you how to make a system of clear, firm, family rules and consequences. Hang your simple, clear rules and consequences on the refrigerator. Parenting is work; parenting children with ADHD feels like slavery; the child is the master! Stick to your system and follow through each and every time with a reward or a consequence.
4. Encourage movement and sleep. It makes me crazy for a child to study while listening to background music blaring through ear buds, but children with ADHD need stimulation to concentrate. My son has ADHD, and as a young adult he’s learning to manage his ADHD. He once told me while attending college, “Dad my ADHD give me an advantage. I can do five tasks simultaneously plus listen to music on my iPod.” Physical activity improves concentration, decreases depression and anxiety, and promotes brain growth. It is a fact that exercise leads to better sleep which can also reduce the symptoms of ADHD. ADHD kids have energy to burn, so decrease media time, eliminate caffeine, lower activity an hour before bedtime, cuddle your child for ten minutes, use relaxation or background music, and use lavender or other aromas in your child’s room.
5. Help your child eat right. If the United States elected a president with ADHD, he or she would make soda bottled water. These kids love sweets and would rather play than eat! Fresh fruits, regular meal times. And staying away from junk food help regulate the child’s impulsiveness. Physically a child with ADHD needs a regular intake of healthy food. Mentally, meal times are a necessary break and a scheduled rhythm to the day.
6. Teach your child how to make friends. ADHD children are less mature than their peeers, talk constantly, and come off as aggressive. This clouds their social judgment. They stand out among youth their own age which makes them targets of unfriendly teasing.. A majority of kids with ADHD are exceptionally intelligent and creative and eventually figure out for themselves how to get along with others and spot people who aren’t appropriate as friends. Moreover, personal traits that might exasperate parents and teachers may come across to peers as funny and charming. Role-play social scenarios. When your child is younger, select playmates with similar language skills and physical skills. Invite one or two friends at a time at first, and watch them closely while they play. Speak gently and honestly about his or her social challenges and what he or she can change. Have a zero tolerance policy for hitting, pushing and yelling, and reward good play behaviors often.
7. An ADHD child responds best to males. Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D. in Taking Charge f ADHD notes the need for fathers to engage their ADHD child. Play, train and instruct them. Fathers have an advantage over mothers. ADHD children respond best to fathers in play or discipline. All kids need fathers, and ADHD kids do not thrive or mature as quickly without them.
Keep in mind choosing medication is not substitute for setting a good example and training your child to take responsibility for his or her ADHD. This takes time, sacrifice, prayer, and a loving relationship with God. If your child has not father, point him or her to God h. He’s always there- not just for your child but also for you! Find a support group either in the church of community. And to all you parents or future parents who think you know best how to raise a child with ADHD; cut us some slack and we’ll do the same for you. We really are doing the best we can!
Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanee Segal, PhD, “ADD/ADHD Medication” and “ADHD Parenting Tips” at helpguide.org. 2011.