We get it. Parenting is challenging, but parenting a child with ADHD can feel like a constant battle. Your child tunes out when you’re trying to explain something important, can’t sit still or focus in class, acts impulsively, and makes poor decisions even when you know they know better. No matter what your child’s particular challenges with ADHD, it’s never easy to see your child struggle, especially when you don’t know what you can do to help.
On the other hand, parenting a child with ADHD can also be incredibly rewarding with the right support in place. Your child can learn to channel their energy in a positive direction, tap into their ability to hyperfocus and dive deeper into topics that excite them, and use their creativity to discover and build solutions no one else could have come up with.
At La Jolla LearningWorks, we know your child has unlimited potential, and we’ve made it our mission to support them in achieving great things inside and outside the classroom. That’s why we’ve compiled this information on what you need to know about parenting a child with ADHD. When you understand the effects of ADHD and have the tools and strategies you need to support your child in school and at home, you can feel empowered to help your child succeed and thrive.
How ADHD can affect your child
According to the ADHD Institute, the most common effects children with ADHD experience are hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsiveness. These factors present challenges in a structured classroom environment where students are expected to sit still and focus for extended periods of time. Children with ADHD often can’t help but channel their excessive energy into behaviors that other students – and even teachers! – find distracting, such as fidgeting, tapping pencils, or chatting with classmates.
Studies have also found that aggressive behavior can also be an effect of ADHD due to the tendency of children with ADHD to be impulsive and react without thinking, especially when frustrated. These behaviors could lead to negative consequences for children with ADHD, when what is really needed is additional support.
Fortunately, ADHD management is possible. Children and parents can learn ADHD coping skills together. Educational therapy and ADHD coaching can help children tap into the positive aspects of ADHD, such as creativity, leadership abilities, and hyperfocus when it comes to topics they’re interested in.
The DOs for Coping with ADHD and Supporting Your Child
- Provide structure that works for your child. This means setting reasonable, achievable goals and helping initiate and maintain good habits. When creating a schedule, consider the times of day your child is most productive vs. when they may need a break, and balancing activities they enjoy with those they struggle with.
- Get organized. Children with ADHD tend to struggle with organization due to inattention and impulsiveness. Help your child get organized, and make sure to involve them in the process. A well-organized study/homework space is especially important in order to minimize potential distractions.
- Sleep is key. You’ve probably noticed that when you’re tired, you find it difficult to pay attention, and you may have a shorter temper than you do when you’re well-rested. This goes double for children with ADHD! In order to give your child the best foundation for their day, and to minimize tension at home, make sure that you and your child get sufficient sleep.
- Limit distractions. When your child needs to focus, whether on schoolwork or a particular skill you’re working on together, do your best to limit potential distractions in their environment. Consider the noise level, visual stimuli such as a television in the background or a window overlooking a park, temperature, and any other factor that might draw your child’s attention away from the task at hand. While your child will probably never be working in perfect conditions, just do your best to weed out the obvious distractions.
- Be positive. Positive reinforcement allows you to establish guidelines and boundaries with your child with ADHD without coming across as strict or overbearing. Praise and encouragement also goes a long way in elevating a child’s self-esteem. In a world that tends to focus on the struggle for students with learning differences, your encouraging words will help your child remember that they are capable of achieving their goals.
The DON’Ts for Coping with ADHD and Supporting Your Child
- Don’t succumb to negativity. We know you will have days where you try your best, employ every strategy at your disposal, and still can’t find something that works for your child at the right moment. You may also have times when a strategy that has been working flawlessly is suddenly ineffective. Take these setbacks in stride. Don’t despair. Remind your child (and yourself) that we all have bad days.
- Avoid becoming overwhelmed. Children with ADHD can get frustrated quickly by seemingly small challenges. This can be frustrating for you, too. It’s okay to take a step back, work on something else, or just take a break completely. Leaving a note on a homework assignment for the teacher’s attention is a better strategy than staying up all night fretting over a math problem!
Parenting Your Child with ADHD When It Comes to School
Good news: it’s entirely possible for a child with ADHD to attend and thrive in a typical school environment alongside their neurotypical peers. That said, children with ADHD may benefit from or even require special accommodations in order to enjoy a positive educational experience. The key is to maintain open lines of communication with your child’s school, including teachers, counselors, and administrators.
Information about ADHD and school accommodations can usually be found on the website for your child’s school or district, but you can also reach out to your child’s teacher or counselor directly to discuss what accommodations may be available. If possible, set up a meeting with your child and their teacher to discuss strategies for ensuring that the classroom remains a safe and positive learning environment. It’s also okay to reevaluate throughout the year if problems arise or something isn’t working out.
Below are a few ways to help a child with ADHD focus in school. You can discuss different options with your child and their teacher to understand what is feasible and what will be the best fit for your child.
- Movement: Allow opportunities for quiet movement that won’t distract others, such as swivel chairs, foot rests, or resistance bands around chair legs.
- Designated Quiet Workspace: Provide a designated “quiet area” in the classroom for focused work, getting organized, and/or collecting oneself.
- Preferential Seating: Establish assigned seating away from distractions and high-traffic areas.
- Consistent Schedule: Maintain a consistent schedule of activities as much as possible to provide structure, and if possible, inform the child in advance of schedule changes.
- Organization Systems: Provide organizational structures for work within the classroom such as color-coded folders, clearly-labeled shelves or cubbies for housing classroom materials, etc.
- Modified Directions: When explaining assignments, provide directions aloud and in writing. Written or verbal outlines to aid note-taking may also be beneficial. Keep instructions simple and direct.
- Multisensory Instruction: Use different modalities to maintain student interest, such as graphics, videos, and hands-on lessons.
- Communication System: Establish nonverbal forms of communication between student and teacher, such as a sticky note or a hand gesture to refocus the student’s attention or for the student to indicate that they’re feeling frustrated and need a break to regroup.
ADHD Treatment Methods for Parents
There are many different methods available for treating ADHD. Some may be effective alone or in combination with other methods, while others may not work for your child at all. Patience, experimentation, and in some cases consultation with professionals can help you find the best fit for your child.
According to the CDC, stimulants are the medications most often used to treat ADHD. They are fast-acting, but tend to wear off more quickly than non-stimulants. Anti-depression medication has also been found effective for treating symptoms associated with ADHD. As with all medications, those used to treat ADHD come with risks and side effects, so it’s important to talk with your child’s doctor to find the best medication and correct dosage for your child.
There are plenty of methods for treating ADHD that don’t involve medication. Changes to your child’s diet may also help with their ADHD. Cut back on sugar and caffeine and incorporate more foods that are high in protein, such as fish, eggs, lean beef, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. It’s a good idea to consult your child’s doctor or a Registered Dietician before making changes to your child’s diet.
Yoga and meditation can work wonders for helping children with ADHD practice self-control and remaining calm. Yoga provides children with ADHD the opportunity to practice mindful movement in connection with focusing and following directions.
Meditation and visualization techniques can help children with ADHD learn tools to refocus after getting distracted or frustrated. Yoga and meditation are also practices you can do with your child, either in a formal class or at home following along with an online video or guided meditation program.
Neurofeedback, also called EEG Biofeedback, is the practice of monitoring and measuring brain activity in order to help a person learn how to regulate their brain function. A typical session is administered by a healthcare professional. Sensors are placed on the scalp that measure brain waves, and then the healthcare professional works one-on-one with the subject to help them understand and learn strategies for self-regulating their brain activity.
Currently, the effectiveness of neurofeedback for treating ADHD is still up for debate as too few studies have been conducted to establish conclusive evidence. Talk to your child’s doctor or counselor to see if this may be an option.
Educational Therapy/ADHD Coaching
Personalized educational therapy focuses on identifying your child’s particular struggles within the umbrella of ADHD, and developing and practicing strategies for addressing those challenges. Educational therapy is different from tutoring in that it goes beyond academics to teach new ways of thinking, techniques for organization, learning methodologies, and more. Educational therapy also prioritizes building confidence along with skills, to help children recognize their strengths and believe in their abilities.
Hope on the Horizon
Parenting a child with ADHD isn’t easy, but it’s extremely rewarding when you can provide your child with the support they need and watch them achieve their goals. Children with ADHD can be highly creative individuals whose energy allows them to excel in their academic areas of interest, athletics, and leadership roles when their tendencies toward hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsiveness are effectively managed.
Focused and personalized educational therapy can help your child channel their energy effectively, overcome challenges, and develop their strengths. If you need help supporting your child with ADHD, you’re not alone. We offer customized one-on-one programs to enable students with ADHD to thrive in school. Learn more about how La Jolla LearningWorks can help your child succeed here.
Download ADHD Parenting Toolkit to use at home