Parenting is one of those jobs that have a long, steep learning curve. You need to balance what children want with what they need. Children with Attention Deficit Disorder have all of the same needs as other children. They need safety and security. A sense of love and belonging is important. Good nutrition, exercise, and creative outlets are necessary for a well-rounded child. However, layered over these basic needs, children with ADD/ADHD also need strong parental advocates. Life is better for them with a structured environment, including a lot of attention and positive reinforcement to encourage them. Social outlets can provide a way to burn off energy. Many children with ADD/ADHD benefit from medication combined with cognitive therapy.
A strong parental advocate can make the difference between having a child who loves to learn and having a child who loathes school. Parental advocates do their homework and find ways to present their childís needs to the school in a way that helps to build a team. That team can focus on making learning more accessible for the child. One way to do this is to gather information before you meet with the team. Present your childís needs in written form to the team. A fact sheet telling about your child is a good start. This helps members of your childís team who may be visual learners. Start an educational file for your child. Any time that you have questions and comments, put them into written form. Keep copies of all communications to and from the school. Hold the school accountable for what the team said would help your child. You should be accountable for what you agreed to do.
Develop routines that support your vision for your child. Do you want your child to do certain things in the morning? Make a list or check-off sheet. This lets the child know what is expected. If you want something done in a certain way, write instructions down. Check-off sheets and instructions need to be kept where your child can get them and you can keep track of them. Find a place to keep them. Work with your child to determine what routines are necessary for his success. If you already have a working routine, donít change it! Just develop those needed routines. Some areas that typically need routines are before school, after school, homework, self-care/hygiene, and bed time. Each family has different needs. Build the idea of routines at an early age. It is a lot easier to instill the expectation of a daily bath when a child is in pre-school; this will help you when your child is in middle school!
Often, a child who has Attention Deficit Disorder is in trouble a lot of the time. This is sad, but it is also reality. Parents can help a child by finding positive ways to give the child attention. Do activities together that the family will enjoy. If a child cannot be successful at an activity, donít make it one more place that they struggle. Find something that they can do successfully. Give that child as much positive reinforcement as possible. Let home be the safe place. Even when the child is struggling at school and with other children, home can be a positive place for him. This oasis of positive feeling can help set the tone for the rest of the childís life when he has to be away from home.
When a child is in trouble a lot, many times they may be excluded from activities that other children enjoy together. For a parent, this can be heart-breaking. Your child needs social outlets. Help your child deal with social situations by teaching him the "hidden curriculum." Those are the social rules that "everybody knows." Your child may need your help to learn these rules. He might not pick them up in the same ways that the other children do. Accept the challenge of finding ways for your child to socialize in naturally structured settings. Know that you will need to be a part of this process. From Scouting to church youth group, your child will benefit if you know what is going on. Again, a fact sheet about your child for these groupsí leadership teams will be helpful. Also, if you are not there, make sure somebody who you trust is involved. Children with ADD can be targets for bullies. Keep your eyes and ears open!
Sports, martial arts, dance, sessions in a gym, and playing with neighborhood children can all help with burning off that extra energy. As always, make sure that you are aware of what is going on. This is to build your child up, not to be one more area for negativity.
What can a parent do to help a child who has so much energy that he fidgets at school? First, to keep your child out of trouble, teach him to fidget silently. Tapping on the desk is a distraction. Gently tapping the tops or sides of the legs with his hands can be silent. Lifting the heels and bouncing them up and down an inch, without touching the floor with the heels, is silent. Tapping his toes disrupts learning for those around the child. Bouncing a pencil on the desk is noisy. Rearranging pencils or pens can be silent. Teach your child quiet methods of fidgeting.
When a child has Attention Deficit Disorder, parents need to carefully consider medication and therapy. Some children do not respond to medication. Many do benefit. Do your research about various medication options. Find a medical professional who is willing to listen to your concerns. A caring clinician will listen to you and your child. This doctor will be flexible and responsive when trying out medications and dosages of each medication. Research has shown that medication alone is more effective than therapy alone. However, medication and cognitive therapy have been shown to be a beneficial combination. Medication can help with balancing brain chemistry, but the cognitive therapy piece helps the child learn to manage symptoms and his own behavior
All of this sounds like a lot of hard work. It is! Starting to carefully build the framework of your childís life when he is very young can pay large dividends. Avoid future problems! Donít wait until the child is already having trouble in school. A child with Attention Deficit Disorder who is raised in a structured environment will have an easier time following rules and procedures. This will help him throughout his life. He will thank you as he grows into confident adulthood.
Delivered from Distraction is a valuable resource for any parent of a child who has ADD. This book is filled with information about living well with ADD/ADHD.
Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
This book empowers parents to trust their better instincts with their child. It places the power for guiding the child back into the hands of the parents, not the clinicians.
Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child
Dr. Phelan's DVD has a wealth of information for parents who have a child with ADD.
All About Attention Deficit Disorder: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment