4 Tips For Helping a Child With ADHD Thrive

As experts learn more about the adolescent brain, and the many conditions that can make the brain act in ways it normally wouldn’t, parents have more information than ever on how to treat a number of conditions and learning disabilities that were mostly a mystery just a couple of generations ago. One of the more common mental illnesses that’s being treated in more efficient ways is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Nearly 10% of all children who have been evaluated for ADHD have received a diagnosis, while many more children are left with their symptoms undiagnosed and untreated.

If you’re parenting a child with ADHD, you aren’t alone, but that doesn’t mean your experience isn’t unique to your child. Children exhibit a number of symptoms in a variety of ways and are often treated for other conditions with similar symptoms, which is why ADHD has been so hard to diagnose in the past.

While every experience parenting a child with ADHD is different, there are a few things that all children who have received a diagnosis can benefit from. To help you get started, here’s a short list of ways you can help your neuroatypical child thrive in a neurotypical world.

1. Find a therapist your child trusts.

As confused as you might feel about your child’s diagnosis, put yourself in their shoes, and imagine how ADHD feels from their little mind. Young children who struggle with ADHD symptoms and receive an early diagnosis are more likely to adjust and thrive than those who are diagnosed later in childhood. Finding an ADHD therapist who your child trusts and is comfortable talking to will give them the important tools they need to control their impulses, help manage their self-esteem, and will help point out their strengths and weaknesses in school as well as in social situations.

An ADHD therapist can also help parents who are struggling to understand their child’s special needs, discuss medication and behavioral therapy options, and give parents the tools they need to navigate the tougher days with their child. Consider one-on-one therapy sessions for your child paired with family sessions to help the entire family understand your child’s needs and to help your child express things that they might not otherwise feel like they can express.

2. Take advantage of behavioral health therapy.

ADHD experts agree that a combination of medication and behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment plan in children, regardless of the scope of their symptoms of ADHD. Having carefully managed behavioral health ensures that a pediatric ADHD patient will thrive socially, emotionally, and mentally as they face the tough challenges of their mental illness throughout their entire life. By picking short-term goals and pairing them with slight behavior modifications, your child will learn to exist alongside most of their ADHD symptoms, rather than suppress them or try to make them go away.

Children who have problems with hyperactivity will have a vastly different treatment plan from those who struggle with inattention or negative thoughts, so it’s important for parents and caregivers to seek out a specific treatment for their child, even if they know someone whose treatment plan worked or they’ve done a lot of research online. While some tools will be used and taught during your child’s appointment, they will be implemented at home and in school, so parent participation is vital to the child’s success.

3. Give them a boost in school.

Children with ADHD often struggle in school in some way. While a child without a diagnosis might seem gifted and bored, their tendency to let their mind wander during the day could be a symptom of ADHD. Other students might struggle with being bombarded with information or distracted by chatter and noises in the classroom and simply check out because they can’t focus. Regardless of why your child seems to struggle in school, falling behind can have a negative impact on their self-esteem and overall mental health.

If your child struggles with math, or is ahead of the curve and constantly falls behind for lack of trying, consider hiring a math tutor to help hone their math skills or encourage them to work ahead to keep their mind busy. And while the pandemic might have your child learning from home at least part-time, and a google search of “math tutor near me” only brings up results of tutors who will come to your house or classroom, there are online tutoring services that your child can use from the comfort and safety of your home.

Finding a professional tutor who is a good match for your child will make a huge difference in their grades as well as their mental health. When children do well in school, they’re more engaged and continue to focus better, which gives their confidence a boost and makes them eager to learn. Whether you have a middle school student struggling with geometry or a high school student who needs some help in calculus or test prep, it’s never too late to get your child the additional help they need to do well in school.

4. Find a routine that works, and stick to it.

Children with ADHD do best when they have a routine and stick to it consistently. Routines provide structure, and doing the same thing at the same time every day gives children an idea of what to expect and gives them a sense of security, which reduces their anxiety and that feeling of chaos that comes with the unknown. Children with ADHD thrive on predictability, and this practice starts in the home.

Ensure that your child has a morning and after school routine, as well as a basic weekend routine, and help them stick to it. Use positive reinforcement when they do the things they’re supposed to do like chores, homework, and hygiene, and if you need to discipline them, be firm and consistent. Emphasize the importance of organization and cleanliness to your child, as untidy living spaces and messes create distractions and can make ADHD symptoms worse. While getting a child who has to be told every three minutes to focus on their homework to stick to a routine might seem like hard work, once the routine is down, your child will have less of a hard time focusing because their mind won’t wander and imagine what they’re going to do next. The struggle to get down to a consistent routine will ultimately be worth it for both you and your child.

You are not alone.

Parenting a child with any sort of mental illness or learning disability can sometimes feel like a struggle on their hardest days. But just as important as it is for your child to have the support of family and their therapists, it’s also important for parents to know that they don’t have to go at this alone. There are so many valuable resources for parents of children with ADHD to help you navigate every step of the way and give your child’s future the best step up you can manage. Find parents in your area who have children with ADHD and help build a support system for both you and your child.

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