When your child is diagnosed and labeled with any kind of disorder, it can be as hard on you as it is on your child. For both of you, there are few things as frustrating, scary, and unwelcome as the news that something’s wrong.
All parents wish they could be better informed. It’s hard to remain cool, calm, and collected when you have no clue how to make things better. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. If your child has Attention Deficit Disorder, become actively involved in his quest to manage it.
10 Ways to Manage Your Child with ADD/ADHD
1. Read everything you can about ADD. Educate yourself. Know what options, rights, and opportunities your child has available. Also, meet and network with parents of other ADD children. It can be a wonderful and uplifting experience to be around people who know what you’re going through, and other parents can be a great source of ideas and information.
2. Share with your child what you know about ADD. Be sensitive in your approach, based on your child’s age and personality. For example, a younger child may need you to take the initiative; a teenager may need more “space,” so wait for him to come to you. Don’t sugarcoat or omit important information, but don’t scare her or over-dramatize. The idea is to give your child a sense of control by providing relevant information that will help demystify her diagnosis and prevent her overactive imagination from going wild.
3. Examine your own attitude toward ADD and how you now view your child. Are you disappointed? Scared? Angry? Be aware of negative feelings and figure out why you feel the way you do. This may sound all touchy-feely, but the truth is: unless you understand what’s going through your own mind, you won’t be able to offer your child the level of support and encouragement she needs to successfully control her ADD. Set aside any expectations and ambitions you may have had for your child. Encourage her to pursue interests where she shows the greatest aptitude and giftedness, even if they’re non-traditional or unorthodox.
4. Pay particular attention to your child’s self-esteem. Work hard to boost it at every turn. Praise her when she succeeds at even the smallest thing. Remember that ADDers love praise and thrive on recognition. It may be hard to find praiseworthy things about her, but you must try. This is crucial.
5. Involve your child in any decision-making you can—anything from what brand of cookies to buy to the best place in the house to do homework. All kids usually feel they have no say in anything as they struggle for independence, so a diagnosis of any perceived disability will only convince him further that his life is completely out of his control. This may create apathy, causing your child to use the word “whatever” far more frequently than you can handle. Offering opportunities to make decisions (and then live with their consequences) should help him begin to gain a sense of ownership and control over his life.
6. If the “techniques” and “strategies” you’ve been using aren’t working, don’t be afraid to try something different. It’s easy to think that because your child is the one with the challenge, she should be the one to change her behavior. But this is counterproductive. It’s up to the adults to be creative. Sometimes only after we change our attitudes and behaviors do we enable our child to respond in a positive way.
7. Create a fun reward system. Along with ample praise, kids with ADD are motivated by tangible displays of appreciation.
8. The parent with the best organizational abilities should partner with the child to help him set realistic goals. Break big tasks into small chunks and celebrate the completion of every stage of a project. Consistency in doing so will let your child experience and savor the feeling of success and accomplishment. That’s a reward in itself and will motivate him to continue setting goals.
9. Watch what you say to your child and how you say it. Be aware of your tone of voice and facial expressions. ADDers are notoriously sensitive and perceptive—they’ll pick up the smallest nuances of negativity or sarcasm and spend hours obsessing about the conversation. Never put down or tease your child; she will be hurt deeply. It will take a hundred kind words to undo one negative one. Build ‘em up, don’t break ‘em down.
10. It’s possible that you yourself have ADD; it runs in families. If so, take it easy on yourself. Take the time to reward yourself for being the best parent you can be. Take a break from your parental responsibilities, even if just for an afternoon, and treat yourself to some “me” time. Parents also need to be praised and rewarded for hard work.
Ben Glenn, known as The Simple ADHD Expert™, journeyed from being a learning-disabled student with ADHD to an internationally renowned speaker and author.