Managing a child with ADHD requires participation of the entire family. Each member including grandpa and grandma needs to become educated in regards to this problem, just as they would if a child had asthma, or any other significant chronic condition. Input from the professional(s) involved and from local support groups can be extremely helpful. The non-profit organization CHADD provides a variety of services, including printed information (facts, newsletters, educational materials for parents) and local organizations where parents and adults can prevent, support one another, and share about ADHD.
Parents of a child with ADHD must be ossified and cooperative. The survival of your marriage will require your conscious decision to create a flexible team and firm support. If you are a single parent with an ADHD child, you will need to marshal all the support you can find – from relatives, friends, members of your church, even co-workers – to give yourself some breathing room. In all cases, prayers to God for wisdom and patience should be a vital part of each day.
The following can help restore and maintain order at home:
Structure and Consistency
A child with ADHD needs a predictable routine every day, with specific times for meals, chores, homework, bathing and bedtime. Create a stable framework for his life. The ADHD child most often wants to do what is right. External structure helps move him in the right direction.
House rules and expectations for behavior should be explicit, understandable and – very important – achievable. It would be unrealistic to expect a child with ADHD to sit quietly through a full-length sermon, go on an extended shopping trip, or dine in a formal restaurant without some difficulty – or total disaster.
Give Concise Instructions
A half hour after making a seemingly simple statement such as “Put the Legos away, let the dog out, and get your coat,” you may find the ADHD child playing with another toy he spotted while putting away the Legos. The dog and the coat will have been long forgotten. If you have more than one thing you want him to do, tell him one item at a time.
Enforce Rules Consistently with Predictable Consequences
For example, if he charges into a busy street on his bicycle despite being warned not to do so, bike-riding privileges should be suspended for a day. If he knowingly mistreats a toy and it falls apart, don’t repair or replace it right away. If he has become too excited or aggressive playing with other children, give him a time-out in an uninteresting spot.
Remember, the child with ADHD may not seem to “get the picture,” and he may actually repeat the behavior that you just punished him for. It is important to make him suffer consistent consequences each time but to not yield to extremes: either giving up, which forfeits your right to be in charge, or reacting with increasingly harsh punishments. As with all children, pick your battles carefully. Behaviors that put others at risk or are overly destructive need your decisive response. But if you go to the mat with him over every minor annoyance you’ll be exhausted and thoroughly depressed everyday.
Praise and Encouragement
The child with ADHD needs to know he is loved and accepted as an important member of the family, especially because his disruptive behavior, difficulties with schoolwork, and lack of success in other areas such as games and sports will generate negative feedback from several directions. He needs to know that you and others are on his team and always will be.
When he does what he’s told, accomplishes a task, plays well with another child, or makes progress at school, praise him. A special time of ten or fifteen minutes every day with one or both parents can allow some positive attention to be focused on him regularly.
Helpful Approach at School
The demands of school are nearly always at odds with the natural bent of the child with ADHD. Often it is one or more problems in the classroom that bring the issue to a head. Many children are first diagnosed with ADHD as a result of a teacher’s observations.
Some adjustments are usually necessary to prevent school from being the site of endless defeat, embarrassment, and disruption. Smaller, calmer, more structured classrooms are preferable to larger, more chaotic environments. Sitting at the front of the class where there are fewer distractions and closer supervision can be helpful. Giving him brief physical tasks, such as passing out papers or erasing the blackboard, will provide acceptable ways for him to get up and move around the room during the day.
In a best-case scenario, the teacher will be aware of his diagnosis and be sympathetic, tolerant, and willing to provide frequent, tactful reminders about assignments and appropriate behavior. Small-group and even individual instruction can be helpful. Just as in the home, the child with ADHD will need praise for his accomplishments and areas of strength to balance the negative feedback that invariably and frequently comes his way.
In the real world, not all of these helpful features will be readily available in the classroom. Parents may want to become advocates for special services for their child, which by law are to be provided by the local school district for those with educational handicaps, including ADHD. Advice from the professional who made the diagnosis or from a local support group might be necessary to guide parents in finding help within the system.
For some ADHD children, home schooling provides an environment that is more structured and conducive to learning. Taking this route obviously requires a fair amount of parental planning and effort, but it could pay off in the long run if it allows the child to complete his primary education more efficiently and with their self-esteem intact.