Feeling overwhelmed by reminding your kids to do chores around the house? To do school work? To not lose belongings? To get organized?
And they still can’t remember?
Are they purposely ignoring you? Or are they just being defiant?
Or is this...could this be…a real struggle with ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders among children and adolescents today. Researchers studying ADHD suggest real structural differences in a child’s brain. What might look like perpetual behavioral choices such as being lazy, sloppy, forgetful, or not being on time, are mainly practices that originate from these “differences” in the brain’s anatomy.
Basically what this means is that ADHD brains are wired uniquely; they have a network of their own. Children with this diagnosis struggle with engaging the parts of the brain that tell us what to do and when to do it. The good news here is that brains do have neuroplasticity and even brain structures are amenable to some change with proper brain stimulation and appropriate parenting practices.
Supporting children in rewiring their brain to perform a task more effectively involves compassion and creativity. The most challenging thing most caregivers face is being able to provide positive feedback to their children because the behavioral challenges are so large and hard to just ignore. On the other hand, providing a lot of negative feedback can result in low self-esteem. Here are a few tips that parents and caregivers can use when dealing with a child who has ADHD:
- Set up routines to avoid power struggles with a child. This will help the child in getting through the daily tasks consistently and in a timely manner.
- Offer choices. Not all kids respond to directions in one particular way. When giving your child a task to perform, state it in a couple of different ways. For example, “I’d like you to put your games away when finished playing. You paid good money for them and I am sure you would like to play with them for a long time”. And then state it in another way, “could you please put your games away, so we can find all parts when we play next time”.
- Negotiate incentives. Children with ADHD are naturally slower in learning how to tailor their actions towards a certain task. Parents can sit down with their child and create a reward system to encourage healthy behaviors and timely actions. For example, earning 5 dollars for every time a child remembers to bring his planner back from school.
- Take 5. Encourage the child to take five breaths (inhale and exhale) before opening their mouths when angry or agitated at something or someone. This will help in preventing short-circuiting and make the venting process smoother in comparison to the verbal nastiness that may come out.
- Praise often. Ideally a child should be praised a minimum of four times a day. Show by your actions and words that you believe in your child’s abilities and that they are working hard. “You cleaned your room without me reminding you”. Or, “you got ready for school so fast today” are some affirmations that will encourage the child to feel motivated and in tune with the family’s environments.