Parenting is tough but trying to parent a child with ADD/ADHD, learning difficulties, or other behavioral challenges can be out-and-out exhausting. The good news is it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to help you keep the peace at home and set your kiddo up for success:
1) Collaboration not confrontation
So you find your kid playing video games instead of cleaning their room like they said they would. If you confront them and demand to know why they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, you’ll only put your child on the defensive and chances are they don’t have an answer or even know why. Instead, redirect them with a reminder: “Remember, you’re supposed to be cleaning your room right now. Let’s get back to that!” If they resist, ask a “What” or a “How” question: “What do you need to do in order to get this room clean?” or “How can we make this easier?”
2) Get their input
As parents when we see our child struggling our immediate reaction is to provide what we think is a logical solution. Can’t remember what homework assignments are due? Write them down in a planner! Problem solved! Until we discover the planner in the child’s backpack three weeks later, untouched. What may seem like a perfectly good solution to us, may not be a good fit at all for your child.
Rather than trying to solve the problem yourself, talk to your child about what they think a good solution would be. Brainstorm a list of possibilities, even ones that seem completely outlandish and silly, and let them choose one to try. When you involve your child in formulating a solution, you’re much more likely to get their buy-in because they feel a sense of ownership and want to make it work!
3) Anticipate meltdowns
If you know your child has a hard time transitioning between activities or is likely to throw a fit in the toy aisle at the store, take proactive measures. Give 10-minute, 5-minute, and 2-minute warnings before transitions. Using an actual timer that your child can see and hear may be helpful too. Talk to your child about what to expect during an outing and how pitfalls might be avoided. “I know you’ll be disappointed when it’s time to go home. What are we going to do to make sure we leave on a good note?”
4) Teach coping skills
Kids have a difficult time navigating strong emotions or stressful situations so teaching them simple coping skills that they can use during tough times will be invaluable, especially as they get older. Create a chart that is broken down by emotion such as angry, sad, bored, frustrated, etc. Then brainstorm with your child and come up with different coping strategies they can use when they experience certain feelings, like “Take a 10 minute break”, “Read a book”, “Ask for help”, “Do 10 jumping jacks”, and so on. Prompt your child to identify their feelings and choose a corresponding strategy from the chart when emotions start to run high.
5) Praise, praise, praise
Kids with ADD/ADHD or other behavioral challenges often receive far more negative attention than they do positive. They are constantly getting into trouble at home and at school and they may have social difficulties as well. That’s why it’s so very important to offer heartfelt praise when you observe them doing well, even if it’s something as small as quietly sitting and reading a book for 2 minutes, acknowledge it and be specific! “Thank you for sitting so quietly with your book while I was making dinner. Great job!” Kids desperately want to do well and when they observe themselves succeeding, it lifts their self-confidence and sense of self-efficacy.
Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW is a social worker, therapeutic arts facilitator, and life coach with specializations in ADD/ADHD and family coaching