Having a child with ADHD can sometimes feel overwhelming and like an impossible job to keep them on task or from hurting themselves with their latest stunt or idea. You’ve probably sought to learn more about this disorder to help your child, but maybe still feel stuck in many ways. Learning about the disorder is great, but learning what to do about it can be even better. Here’s a few simple suggestions that can make a world of difference for the struggling parent.
First, how to approach your child when you need them to listen. How you speak to your kid can make a big difference in their ability to process what you are saying. You will need to slow things down so that they can have the time, space, and environment to properly process things. Start by removing external distractions if possible. Move to a quieter space or turn off the TV. Then engage with physical touch. A hand on the shoulder, holding their hand, or gently cupping their face in your hands will do. Physical touch is grounding for all of us, but especially kids. Next, ensure you have their eye contact. If they look away while you’re speaking, pause what you are saying and request they look at you again. Then break down your message into bite-sized chunks and have them repeat what you said. Do this as many times as necessary for them to fully understand what you are saying or asking of them.
Second, help your child develop the skill of mindfulness. For many children with ADHD they can often feel like they don’t have control of their mind. The tick of a clock, a new smell, or that darn squirrel running by can seemingly demand they notice it, which almost always leads to a flood of other, tangential thoughts. Before they know it, they are so far off track they're unsure of where they even began. Understanding this pattern can help free them from it. Mindfulness is the ability to notice when their mind is feeling distracted or hijacked. This skill can begin through reflection, looking back on the day to try to notice patterns of inattention or being distracted. Building awareness in retrospect can lead to better awareness in the moment. Mindful meditation, like being still and trying to pay attention to just their breath, can lead to more awareness in the moment as well. The more your child develops mindfulness around their experiences, the more empowered they will be to apply other skills to help them stay on track or complete their work.
Lastly, routine, structure, and consistency are crucial for their success, as is the case with most kids. No doubt it will be tiring, but you have to remain consistent with house rules, expectations, and consequences. Consistency in these areas can help them find their own ways to remember what they need to and behave appropriately to avoid undesired, or gain desired, consequences. Lack of predictability around these things can exacerbate their ADHD symptoms. Structure around routines can also help mitigate disorganized tendencies. For example, when they get home from school, their backpack goes here, their homework goes there, and they can check their chore chart here. There are lots of ways to create these routines, so find what works best for your situation.
Ultimately, these suggestions will help to slow down your child’s fast-paced inner world. As this slowing occurs, they will have better opportunity to develop executive functioning skills for themselves, which may end up mirroring some of these very approaches.