What Parents Can Do to Help Their Kids with ADHD: 6 Things To Try
Having a child diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may present quite a few challenges. First, they get assessed for learning disability or ADHD, and then suddenly you are thrust into a world of medication, therapy, alternative treatments, and all sorts of other methods to help deal with the ADHD and it can get overwhelming for both you and your child.
While it’s true dealing with your child’s ADHD symptoms can be extremely exacting and exhausting on some days, helping them isn’t a lost cause. There are a few ways you can help your child manage their symptoms, as well as a few strategies you can implement for yourself that can greatly benefit your approach as a parent of a child with ADHD.
Helping Your Child with ADHD
Children with ADHD are still children and they need their parents to help them learn and grow, especially with their ADHD. Though it may require a few more creative methods, lovingly creating a safe space for development for your kid will tremendously benefit them well into their adulthood.
1. Validate Their Emotions
Children with ADHD often feel the extremes of their emotions. These intense feelings may be foreign to them and they don’t know how to deal with them yet. Your first thought may be that they are overreacting but remember: those feelings are real and they matter.
Allow your child to feel understood and loved. Keep in mind, validation does not equal condonation of defiant behavior or bad choices. When validating your child’s feelings, you are acknowledging that their emotions are understandable. By listening to them and showing your understanding, you can better help them through their big feelings.
Integrating validating phrases like “That must be sad…,” “I can see you are feeling…,” or “I know what you mean…” helps your child understand their feelings as well. Asking them “How can I help you?” can also guide them to figure out how to best deal with their emotions later on by themselves. This method can definitely develop and improve children's mental health.
2. ADHD-friendly Diet
The ADHD brain can greatly benefit from a healthy diet rich in protein, low on sugar, and as few additives as possible, ADDitude reports. Protein is linked to blood sugar spike prevention, which can help mitigate hyperactivity. A protein-rich diet also helps the brain make neurotransmitters that help the brain cells communicate with each other better.
Avoid simple processed carbohydrates and additives. Food with too much sugar can trigger hormonal responses like stress, which can aggravate symptoms of ADHD. Try serving food with high protein, complex carbs, and fiber, like a whole grain peanut butter sandwich. The complex carbohydrates are digested slower and therefore aids in the gradual and sustained blood sugar release.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids also have a positive effect on managing ADHD symptoms. Take the time to also have your child’s iron, zinc, and magnesium levels checked as these minerals play an important role in controlling ADHD symptoms. It is best to have a physician check the mineral levels first before giving them supplements as an excess of any of these minerals could be harmful to your child.
3. Have Supports in Place
Since ADHD has “disorder” in its name, it is easy to conclude that there is a problem and that problem is the child. Parents of children with ADHD must realize that trying to change your child because you think something is wrong with them is not a helpful mindset and will even prove detrimental to your child’s development. Your child being neurodivergent was not a choice, but your perception and actions are.
Instead of assuming doom, set the stage up for success for your child. Lead your child towards positive behaviors by supporting them with solid routines, clear rules, visual cues, and creative reminders that help them develop good behaviors. Corrective and frequent positive feedback, rewards, and other incentives can reinforce the development of a healthy daily system.
4. Wear a Watch
Time blindness is a very real thing with some children with ADHD. Being unaware of the time can lead to things like being late or even spending way too long on an activity. Some smartwatches help children keep activities within a certain time limit and remind them of other habits or tasks they could do for the day.
5. A Distraction-Free Area
This tip is really for when they need to do school work or anything else that needs focus. Keep in mind that distraction-free does not mean devoid of stimuli. Depending on what works best for your child, this may be a corner of the room with music playing in the background, or on the kitchen table with the sound of running water from a mini zen garden waterfall filling the space.
Experiment to discover what works best for your child as well as check-in from time to time to see if the work area is still conducive for focus and learning and see if anything can be improved to keep focus at a relatively high level.
6. Positive Feedback
Do not underestimate the power of effective positive feedback. Dr. David Anderson’s advice is to be specific about the behavior or action you want to address and give the feedback immediately and while in close proximity to them. Consistency in providing reinforcement when they demonstrate good behavior is also very helpful in driving home the connection between the behavior and the positive response. A solid behavior plan and reward system can also help them develop healthy habits with consistency.
Take it One Day at a Time
You and your child are a team when it comes to helping them handle their ADHD symptoms. Some days may be easier than others but try to keep in mind that progress isn’t always linear. Every challenge you and your child face is an opportunity to learn and grow together so your child can grow a happy and healthy life with their ADHD.