ADHD in Children: Behavioral Strategies for Parents
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder inattention, disorganization, and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity (APA, 2013). ADHD typically begins in childhood and is associated with problems at home, in school, and in public places. Although ADHD can be treated with medication and therapy, parents often struggle with managing the symptoms in their child before a diagnosis is confirmed.
Treatment of ADHD can help reduce problems for children and improve family interactions. However, many parents initially struggle with recognizing how much of the symptoms are typical child behaviors. Early recognition can help improve the lives of children with ADHD. It is very important if you notice signs of ADHD (see criteria provide by Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, CHADD) that you consult with a psychologist or your child’s pediatrician to seek a referral for psychological testing to obtain a formal diagnosis.
The following behavioral strategies are helpful for children with ADHD
- Use a schedule. Keep the same routine every day, from wake-up time to bedtime. Include time for homework, outdoor play, and indoor activities. Keep the schedule on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Write changes on the schedule as far in advance as possible. Scheduling not only helps the family but it allows the child to keep track of their activities.
- Set clear, behavioral expectations. Many children will benefit from establishing clearly defined rules. However, for children with ADHD this is extremely important. They will benefit from knowing exactly what is expected. Avoid telling your child “you can earn a reward for good behavior”. Instead, say “you can earn a reward for cleaning up your books after being told the first time”.
- Provide frequent positive attention or rewards. Children with ADHD greatly benefit from reinforcement of appropriate behavior. Verbal praise can provide them with motivation to complete tasks and make them feel more confident in their abilities. Just think about it for a second. Would you rather work for a boss who tells you “great job” or “you never do anything right”.
- Write things down to help with organization. Children with ADHD are often distracted and forgetful. Writing things down helps them with completing tasks in a timely manner. Additionally, it helps parents from getting frustrated for constantly repeating instructions or directions. Talk with your child to see what would make life easier for them. Some kids may want a daily planner, while others may prefer a check list.
- Talk with your child’s teacher. Many children with ADHD may need accommodations in the classroom. For example, it often helps to sit near the front of the class or away from windows to prevent distractions. Being an advocate for your child’s needs are important. You may also be able to see what works in the classroom to help your child be successful at home. Having consistently across home and school can help with structure.
Some children with ADHD continue to display symptoms in adulthood. However, most adults do not have significant difficulties. They may feel that it is impossible to get organized, stick to a job, or remember and keep appointments. Daily tasks such as getting up in the morning, preparing to leave the house for work, arriving at work on time, and being productive on the job can be especially challenging for adults with ADHD.
American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2014). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved March 2014 from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml