ADHD What can parents do?

(Photo: Jordan News)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder first diagnosed during childhood; it usually lasts into adulthood. Dealing with a child who has ADHD can be overwhelming for a parent, and can come with a set of challenges during different stages of their growth and development.اضافة اعلان

Clinical treatment of ADHD

In most cases, parents are encouraged to follow the first preferred line of treatment, agreed upon by professionals and specialists in the field, which is behavioural therapy, especially for younger children, before introducing medication.

Children with ADHD experience symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity which contribute to their difficulty controlling their impulses and finishing tasks, as well as being overly active. There is no rule book for ADHD, every case can look different and might vary in symptoms and severity. So what works best for a child and his/her family will, in turn, vary as well.

While following a treatment plan that may combine a certain dose of medication along with behavioural therapy can prove to be very beneficial for the child, that is not a luxury that all families can afford. And even with therapy and medication, parents still need to adopt a lifestyle that caters to the best interest of their child, and that includes introducing and following different strategies at home.

As the parent, it is vital to stay updated on recent developments in the research field of ADHD. Most recent studies have linked AHDH with underlying genetic factors, as well as other environmental and neurodevelopmental factors as possible main causes. So, it is important to note that, contrary to popular belief, eating too much sugar, excessive screen time, and other social factors will not cause your child to have ADHD, but what such habits can do is exacerbate existing symptoms, making them all the more difficult to manage.

Have structure and consistency

To begin with, the first and most important key to the success of any strategy is consistency. Providing structure for your child is your best bet at limiting sudden distractions. This comes with having a clear daily schedule and routine. Knowing what to expect on a day-to-day basis will calm your child and allow them time to mentally prepare for required tasks. The schedule you set should account for as many, and preferably, all hours of the day. This includes their sleep schedule, meal times, study and play time, sports and other activities, as well as their screen time. In addition, providing them with a clean, organized working space is just as important.

Encouraging physical activity is another fundamental step to take. Allowing a child with ADHD to have time dedicated to releasing their excess energy in a healthy and productive manner will stimulate their brain and promote focus and concentration.

Besides signing them up for a team sport, you can also spend quality time as a family by going on hikes or playing outdoors. Make sure you have different toys, such as a bike, balls and skipping rope available as well. Some studies have shown that even having a stress ball or a fidget toy can help children relax their mind and body and reduce stress, due to their quiet and easy-to-handle nature. It is best to contact your child’s school and ask for an allowance to be made for your child to have their stress ball with them at hand during class.

Break it down

The next step to take is breaking down tasks. For a child with ADHD, many tasks, especially ones that require considerable mental effort, are a big challenge as they will feel too complex. The child will therefore feel demotivated and will do anything in his/her power to avoid finishing, or even starting them. This could happen, for example, when it is time to do homework. It is simply unrealistic to expect that your child with ADHD will sit down for a prolonged period of time and finish his/her work.

You have to give breaks in between, and you must break each task down into small achievable goals; using clocks and timers has proved to be an effective way to manage tasks and train your child to follow a set amount of time. It is also your responsibility to remove as many possible distractions, by keeping their surroundings uncluttered and noiseless.

Use positive reinforcement

It should come as no surprise that the best way to have good behaviour is through positive reinforcement, specifically through praise and encouragement. However, simply saying “good job” will not do the trick. Your praise should be targeted and specific. Praise them for the way they cleaned up their toys, their neat handwriting, or for the way in which they were able to control their reactions in a specific situation.
If you feel frustrated and worried, vent to a partner or a friend instead of taking it out on your child, who is behaving in a way that is beyond his/her control.

At the same time, try not to use negative language and give positive feedback to help build their confidence.

It can be easy for a child to feel unloved or disliked for getting things wrong. Some parents may direct negative and hurtful comments at their child whether they mean to or not. And while it is hard to remain positive all the time, know that antagonizing your child will only make disruptive behaviours worse. If you feel frustrated and worried, vent to a partner or a friend instead of taking it out on your child, who is behaving in a way that is beyond his/her control.

Be the calming force

When your find yourself in a challenging situation with your child, and you feel as though things might escalate, opt for an explanation rather than a command. Explaining why you are asking your child to do a certain task can help alleviate their confusion as well as help reduce their frustration and their inherent need to challenge your authority. Remaining firm, calm and respectful will always be a better option than losing control of your emotions, and setting that as the example that your child will rightfully assume is okay to follow.

One specific method to use is to give limited options. If you children’s screen time is up and they refuse to give back their electronic device, tell them that they have three options: either give it back to you now, in 10 minutes, which they will most likely choose, or not give it back and have it taken away for three days. That way you are allowing your child to experience a sense of agency, you are spelling out consequences in advance, as well as exhibiting a good example of being a loving yet authoritative figure in the household.

However, remember that following through with consequences is the only reason you should have them in the first place, otherwise it simply defeats their purpose and will just seem cruel.

Children with ADHD have poor impulse control, so a good way to help them regulate their emotions and reactions is through introducing waiting time into their routine. While that will take a lot of time and practice, working with them on waiting for a few seconds to gather their thoughts before blurting them out will be worth it. You can practice this through playing different impulse control games as a fun way of teaching them a valuable and essential social skill.

In conclusion, you cannot and should not expect your child to manage this disorder on his/her own. Children cannot help the way their brain works, and what they all deserve and should be able to rely on is having a support system and a parent or caregiver that is knowledgeable and will be the calming force that takes the lead in helping them navigate through not just the challenges, but their day-to-day life.

Set boundaries, pick your battles, keep them challenged and busy, and keep working to modify behaviour. Most importantly, help is there and you only have to ask. Follow professional advice and develop a good treatment plan that includes all aspects of their life, and make changes, when needed, along the way.

Read more Education