Being a parent is difficult in it of itself. However, it can become overwhelming when your child has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a mental health disorder that greatly interferes with a person’s attention and self-control. In turn, ADHD can impact a number of aspects of day-to-day life, from school to home. We’re going to look at ADHD strategies for kids that focuses on all parts of a living life with this condition.
Our hope is highlight options in order to make life easier for the kids, the parents, and teachers. At the end of the article, we invite you to ask any questions.
What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
ADHD is a common mental disorder that affects both children and adults. Its symptoms may cause an individual to have trouble with focus, excessive movement, and make hasty actions.
There are different kinds of ADHD, including inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type and combination of the two. The most common in children is a combined variation of ADHD where in the child has both hyperactivity while also struggling to stay on task. ¹
Symptoms of ADHD in children can range but there is a common subset of symptoms that point to a combined variation of ADHD. Combined ADHD is most common in kids. Those symptoms break down into three categories: ²
- Difficulties in finishing tasks
- Easily distracted
- Short attention span
- Unable to listen thoroughly
- Frequency in risk taking or attention seeking behaviors
- Interrupts others
- Patience problems in social settings
- Difficulties in remaining still/patient
- Forgets things constantly
- Running or wandering around
- Talks Excessively
ADHD Strategies for Kids
Parents need to understand that their child who has ADHD can do and achieve everything that a child who does not have ADHD can. That being stated it is important to understand as a parent that your approaches to your child, their needs and what they want to do have to be proactive.
Children with ADHD have a complication in self regulation. Self regulation refers to the consistency with every day activities in order to function at an appropriate level. For ADHD children, it’s imperative that they have a sense of structure. ³
Self regulation can look like many things from ensuring that the child is bathing, having a social life, or getting enough sleep. It can also include exercise and consuming a balanced diet. By setting up these behaviors and demonstrating them, a child with ADHD will start to become used to these self regulating functions.
Routines can help a child who has ADHD achieve and grow. Every child is different with needs and routines changing drastically from child to child. Parents often start rudimentary routines at first but over time start altering them. Finding a routine that structures to meet the needs of your family can greatly change you and your child’s life.
However, having a routine provides the child with ADHD an understanding of what is to be expected of them. It also gives insight into how tasks should be done in the time they have. ⁴
Sleep and energy
It’s vitally important that parents set rules and regulations when it comes to an ADHD child’s sleep and energy. Creating a consistent routine can also provide a regular bedtime for a child with ADHD. This sleep is imperative in order for the child to function properly.
If the child with ADHD is on medication, sleep can be somewhat problematic. Side effects can cause irregularities and inconsistencies with sleep patterns. Finding a consistent sleep schedule will help with understanding when it’s time to go to bed. Through consistency, it will also help knowing how much sleep they actually need to function throughout the day. ⁵
Those with ADHD have more energy and a willingness to try and use that energy. In day to day life, there might not be enough opportunities where a child with ADHD can expel that energy. With that, there might be a necessity to introduce outside resources to expel all the necessary energy.
Failing to provide opportunities for activity might lead more problems, such as an inability to sleep. Outside resources could look like recreational activities, outdoor sports, and social engagement programs. ⁶
It’s not enough for a parent to ensure that their child is getting enough nutrients from their diet. Children with ADHD have to have a regulated diet. While there are many reasons for this, one of the most important is that ADHD symptoms can worsen by sugary foods. Foods with preservatives or caffeine can also exacerbate ADHD symptoms. ⁷
For parents, this might mean removing sugary or fatty foods. Doing this will reduce problematic symptoms like misbehaving or rowdiness. It also might mean that a child with ADHD cannot engage with meal practices that exist outside the family home. Furthermore, this might include limiting visits to fast food restaurants or consuming sodas.
Having clear-cut rules with consequences is vital. Rules and consequences help children understand their own behaviors and the impact their actions have on others. This may include physical altercation, tantrums or anything that hampers the day-to-day functionality of a routine.
Discipline doesn’t just mean punishment. It can also mean guiding a child through difficult situations. Setting clear-cut examples and demonstration of proper etiquette and attitudes that can improve a child’s behavior over time. Parents of an ADHD child should have a space for timeouts and punishment. This is to ensure that the child understands that when they are in that area, they are getting punished for their actions.
With discipline, it’s important to practice clear communication. Both come in tandem with one another and one cannot exist without the other. It’s essential that a parent communicates clearly and effectively with the child as to how they had misbehaved and what behaviors, attitudes, and actions are to be expected. ⁸
With discipline also comes reward. When an expectation is set and met, you should make sure the child is rewarded for such action. It’s not enough for the child to understand that they have done something wrong or right. A reward helps demonstrate to the child so they understand to do the right things at the right times for the right reasons. ⁹
With misbehavior comes discipline. With good behavior comes reward. A reward will incentivize the child to do the right things and it will help the parent give clear-cut examples as to what could happen if a child behaves properly.
Comfort and Solidarity
As important as it is to punish and reward your child, it’s also important for the child to feel comforted. Providing consistent comfort allows for stronger relationship and builds solidarity. A loving, open, and inclusive household starts by exemplifying that behavior with the parents.
The action can be as small as sitting with the child in times of strife or providing a comfort and love for them when necessary. When there is an adequate amount of comfort, a child will feel more inclined to do the right things for the right reasons because they know that the benefits of good behavior far outweigh the consequences of bad behavior.
Parenting an ADHD Child Age by Age
Parenthood can be difficult, especially when deciphering what to do at each stage of a child’s life in order for them to be the most successful. Adding a mental health condition like ADHD to that mix can make an already difficult situation much more complicated. We have broken down the stages of a child’s life and provided some areas of parenting that most professionals agree is the most influential in ensuring that a child with ADHD has the best tools for success.
Its during the toddler years (2-5) where most parents begin to realize that their child has ADHD. The most common age that a child shows signs of ADHD is between 3 and 4 years. The diagnosis usually comes after six months of disruptive and concerning behavior. Most times, this behavior is outside the home (in daycare or pre-k). ¹⁰
While it’s common for a toddler to have outbursts from time to time, a toddler with ADHD will have these behavioral issues at a more consistent. Toddlers with ADHD are more apt to have outbursts, rapid changes in energy, tantrums, and lash out at other children their age.
These kind of behaviors over a longer period of time can be helpful in making a definitive diagnosis. It’s important for parents to be responsive to this conduct as well formulating routines, activities, and discipline practices that best ensure the needs of an ADHD toddler is being met. Such practices might look like: ¹¹
- Having a time out space within the house. A space where a child knows why they are going there and can reflect on why they’re there.
- Involving the ADHD toddler in energy burning activities. Activities could be structured playtime where proper interaction with others is demonstrated and practiced routinely.
- Keeping the child engaged throughout the day with a routine. The routine should include meals, educational practice, building social skills, and ensuring that the child is taking naps.
- Consistent communication with the toddler about feelings, behaviors, and compulsions.
When an ADHD toddler develops into a child, it’s imperative that the parents are setting a proper example. A proper example includes making sure that the child’s needs are being taken care of. Diagnosing a child with ADHD can be just as confusing for them as it is for the parents. There needs to exist an environment where a child can come to their parents with any concerns or problems that they might be having.
Parenting measures will have to evolve as the child grows up and with every year comes new challenges. Things that were important before, such as setting up discipline practices and routines will need to adapt and mature as the child begins to develop. Changes to such practices might look like: ¹²
- Discussing with the child about why they are being disciplined, pointing out the infraction and demonstrating proper behaviors.
- Involving a child with ADHD in recreational activities wherein they can exercise, build social relationships with other kids, and provide an environment where they can learn how to succeed or fail based on their own merits. Such activities could be hobbies, social groups, or in outdoor sports programs.
- Adapting a previously constructed routine when they were toddlers with the new challenges, such as going to school, having homework, going to doctor appointments, and taking medications that will help with their ADHD.
- Demonstrating appropriate behaviors and having conversations with a child about what’s expected and what they should expect when such expectations are not met.
Parenting teenagers in general can be difficult, but adding a complex mental health condition such as ADHD can make things more difficult. There are many different factors that are introduced during the teenage years, such as rounding out education, creating new social circles, entering the world of dating, and becoming a driver.
However, with all the excitement comes worry from parents over how they can ensure the best possible outcomes from these major life moments.
A parent’s role for their ADHD teens starts to change from being an advocate for them to teaching them to be an advocate for themselves. As the child matures into a teenager and eventually an adult, the understanding and expectation is that the ADHD teen should start becoming self-sufficient. The parent can assist their teen by instilling skills so that the teen can start taking care of themselves on their own, without their parent’s intervention. This can look like the following: ¹³
- Taking medications on their own volition and schedule without parental intervention.
- Coming to terms with their diagnosis and finding ways to communicate it to others.
- Becoming a part of their own medical care, talking to doctors and health providers about their own concerns and expectations.
- Being able to communicate adequately with others either in an academic, professional or social setting.
- Meeting goals, deadlines and expectations set out by their teachers, coaches or employers.
- Making clear of social boundaries, especially when it comes to dating, so that the teen is engaging in safe and practical dating habits.
Effective Teaching Strategies for Students with ADHD
Education for those with ADHD can be difficult. It can also be challenging for teachers, school staff, and families. Fortunately, there are resources and methods that can be put in place in order to make learning a smoother and more enjoyable process.
When it comes to schools, district, and state, each vary from one another in the resources they offer. However, there are rights that belong to the student and their families that exist for their own best interest. Here are resources and options available for students with ADHD: ¹⁴
- Provide special education, IEP and 504 plans by law
- Tailored instructions and assignments
- Tech resources to help with homework, tests and tasks in the classroom
- Time for breaks and movement during class
- Limiting distractions
- On site counsellors
Teachers can provide a lot of resources in the classroom, from their teaching plans to limiting distractions. However, the primary thing that can assure success for an ADHD student is communicating consistently not only with the students but also their family. By communicating with the parents, a teacher is more apt to understand the child’s unique emotional shifts, the complexities of the child’s disorder, and what areas need to be targeted and taken care of.
Communication can clear up any inconsistencies within the ADHD student’s distractions and complications both academically and behaviorally in the classroom. Also teachers, based on how the student is doing and opening a line of communication to the parents, can receive accommodations such as making assignments, direction more clear, or demonstrating or instilling organizational skills. ¹⁵
Parents can have an incredible impact on children who have ADHD. How a parent sets up their children to succeed largely falls onto how the parent advocates for their child in and outside the classroom. With every family structure is the opportunity to involve oneself in their child’s schoolwork and academic life.
Being an advocate can also ensure that a parent not only understands the entirety of their child’s diagnosis and how it can impact their education but also can ensure that you, the student and the school understand the rights the student has at their disposal to have the best success. ¹⁶
Raising children with ADHD can be a complex situation which includes multiple different facets of life being regulated and preplanned. However, with the right technique, strategies, and methods anyone can find ways to raise a child in an adequate, supporting and comfortable home and school.
The work life balance can become something that is not a house all day in and day out for something that can be rewarding and growing as well. With the ADHD strategies for kids that we have outlined here today, life with an ADHD child doesn’t have to be a continual struggle it can be a time of growth, learning and peace.
Still have questions about ADHD strategies for kids?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge on the topic to offer – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ John Hopkins Medicine: Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children
² Mayo Clinic: ADHD Symptoms
³ Centers for Biotechnical Information: Self-Regulation in ADHD -The Role of Error Processing
⁴ National Health Service UK: Living With ADHD – Routines
⁵ Understood Organization: How ADHD affects sleep — and what you can do to help
⁶ Centers for Biotechnical Information: A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
⁷ Centers for Biotechnical Information: Self-Regulation in ADHD -The Role of Error ProcessingCorrelation between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sugar consumption, quality of diet
⁸ US Department of Education: Behavioral Interventions for ADHD Students
⁹ Futurity Organization: Rewards Really Pay Off for Kids with ADHD
¹⁰ American Counselling Association: Diagnosing ADHD in Toddlers
¹¹ Peace Health Medical Association: Tips to help children with ADHD
¹² CHADD: Parenting Kids with ADHD
¹³ CHADD: Parenting Teens with ADHD
¹⁴ Centers for Disease Control: ADHD in School
¹⁵ Child Mind Institution: Teachers Guide to ADHD in the Classroom
¹⁶ CHADD: ADHD & School- Toolkit for Parents