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6 min read

5 Tips for Parenting Children with ADHD

child with adhd struggling at a therapy appointment

"I asked you to clean your room. Why did you rearrange the furniture?"

Having a child with ADHD comes with highs and lows.

You've probably noticed that your child is extremely bright and gifted, and can do absolutely incredible things at the drop of a hat. However, you've probably also noticed that the hat needs to be interesting to them before anything actually happens.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is the single most common mental health condition in children: about 1 in 10 of them have it. That makes addressing it a high priority for healthcare professionals.

As psychiatrists, we do everything we can to ensure your children are being treated for their conditions and made to feel more comfortable through medical science.

As the parent of a child with ADHD, however, you're there for everything else. So what can you do between prescription refills and doctor's office visits to make your child, and in fact yourself, happier and more comfortable? How do you parent a child with ADHD effectively so that they can learn and grow along with other children?

Let's find out.

Skip to a tip:

Tip #1: Video games, TV, and the iPad are not solutions.

Tip #2: Routine, routine, routine.

Tip #3: Academic accommodations are worth it.

Tip #4: "Gamify" the boring stuff.

Tip #5: Take care of yourself.

Tip #1: Video games, TV, and the iPad are not solutions.

As tempting as it is to plop your child on the couch and let them do whatever floats their boat on XBOX or an iPad for hours on end, it's not good for ADHD.

There are several reasons for this, but two of the most important are:

  • Exercise and good sleep promote focus
  • Modern content can make your child's ADHD symptoms worse

Exercise and Sleep: Two Natural Remedies for Many ADHD Symptoms

The "H" in ADHD stands for hyperactivity. Within this broad term are several related behaviors, like:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • A tendency to disrupt family life
  • Lack of self-control
  • Child noncompliance

To oversimplify, many of your child's behaviors are likely related to the amount of energy they have in combination with their disorder.

Exercise makes your kid tired, which makes them less likely to reorganize the silverware drawer instead of doing their homework assignments.

A tired child is also more likely to get a full 8 hours of sleep, which is not only imperative for improving general child grumpiness and reducing the symptoms of ADHD, but it's also completely necessary for them to grow and develop.

When your child spends hours staring at a bright square of blue light, their sleep quality will be affected, and they will not have exercised. That's a recipe for a 10 p.m. flare-up.

Algorithm-based content is probably really bad for your child's brain.

Because the concept is fairly new, algorithm-based content (see: TikTok) has not been officially studied enough to make a scientifically definitive claim about its effect on child psychology.

What we do know, however, are the following facts:

A little bit of TikTok and other social media is fine, but carefully monitor your child's use and be sure they don't get hooked. Hours of very short videos can be detrimental to your child's ability to focus.

Tip #2: Routine, routine, routine.

ADHD is characterized by a reduction in executive function, which essentially means the ability to plan ahead, focus on the task at hand, and manage time.

While it doesn't technically reduce symptoms, establishing a strict routine can help play to your child's strengths and build on his or her ability to manage and prioritize tasks over time.

Depending on your child to manage their own routine leads to conflicts and stress, since that routine will likely change from day to day.

Instead, try designing a routine that simplifies your child's schedule.

Routines save brain space, allowing the same tasks to be completed with less attention commitment.

Think of your child's after-school schedule like a set of multi-colored marbles. Your child's goal is to pick up the marbles in a certain order: red, then green, then blue, then yellow.

Option number one (allowing the day's events to happen without a routine) is like dropping the marbles on the kitchen floor and hoping your child can stay focused long enough to find the red marble. If they can do that, then they can... wait, which color was next?

Option number two (setting a routine, in this metaphor) is like putting all the marbles in the correct order into a tube, and then simply giving your child a timeline for then they need to revisit the tube and get the next marble. This is a much, much more comfortable process for a child with ADHD than chasing marbles under the dining room table.

Of course, you should still give your child time and space to work on improving their ability to manage their own time. In fact, this is important for every child, not just those with ADHD.

Set this time apart from critical tasks like brushing teeth and doing homework; it should resemble play-time. Creating a low-stakes environment for "practice" reduces both your and your child's stress and makes them more likely to enjoy the process.

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Tip #3: Academic accommodations are worth it.

Academic accommodations refer to policies that many schools either voluntarily offer or are required by law to offer. They can include:

  • One-on-one time with a teacher
  • Extra time on tests and exams
  • Breaks for play or exercise

It's very easy to feel like accepting accommodations is an admission that your child can't handle the same academic rigor that other children can. Understand that that is not the case at all.

The fact of the matter is that your child - literally and physiologically - learns differently than other children. It makes no sense to expect them to fit into a curriculum that was designed back when cars had to be cranked to start.

Every child learns differently: some are more visual learners, while others need verbal instruction. Some like to read about topics, while others prefer learning by doing.

Accepting accommodations for ADHD simply recognizes this scientific fact and places your child in a far more comfortable, practical, and well-fitted learning program.

Plus, it can take some of the pressure off of things on the academic side, so you can focus more on being the amazing parent you are.

Tip #4: "Gamify" the boring stuff.

Your child's ADHD makes it difficult for them to focus on stuff that bores them.

Try to imagine the world through the eyes of an extremely bright and imaginative child with ADHD: Why would you only brush your teeth when it's much more interesting to take a few laps around Bathroom Space Station in your brand-new toothbrush-shaped star ship first?

When you need your child to do something within a certain timeframe, it can help to turn it into something interesting for them. You know your child best, so you know better than we do exactly what this will look like, but here are a few examples to get the gears turning:

  • Make it a race: Don't ask them "clean their room." Ask them to try and beat their previous record in the Weekly Room Ordnance Time Trials.
  • Make it imaginative: Mowing the lawn isn't mowing the lawn. It's clearing a forest to make room for a new secret base.
  • Make it artistic: There's no reason why brushing their teeth can't also be a dance-off.

Obviously, the way you gamify depends on your child's age and interests. The ultimate goal, however, remains the same: turn something boring into something fun, and your child will do it on-time every time.

Tip #5: Take care of yourself.

It's easy to talk about doing the things described above. But every parent knows that when "stuff" hits the fan, and everyone's hungry, and everyone's tired, it becomes pretty much impossible to actually do it.

As the parent, and as difficult as it can be sometimes, you have to be the rock for your child. A a person, however, try to remember that it's not possible for you to be a rock all the time.

Take some time each day or week for yourself. Find a babysitter you trust and go do your favorite thing in the world. Go see a movie, grab a drink with a friend, go for a run, or just binge your favorite sitcom.

There are two reasons why you should work "me time" into your routine as a parent to a child with ADHD.

First, you deserve it. You work so hard to make sure your child is getting the care, attention, and instruction they need, and you really do deserve some time to yourself.

Second, it reduces stress, which makes you a better parent. Caring for a child with ADHD requires patience and empathy. If you're burned out or feeling like you just can;t give any more, tensions rise and things can get snappy.

For your own sake, as well as for the sake of your child, regularly take some time off from being a superhero.

Child Psychiatry in Brooklyn: Williamsburg Psychiatry Group

If you spend some time exemplifying the tips above, and you're still having trouble with your child's behavior, consider enlisting the help of one of our world-class child psychiatrists. Williamsburg Psychiatry Group is the psychiatric partner of Williamsburg Therapy Group.

Our expert doctors are on-hand to provide consultation and, if necessary, prescriptions to help your child find more focus, harmony, and peace of mind.

Schedule an appointment or give us a call to get matched with the right psychiatrist for your child.

Book a Psychiatry Appointment

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