How To Parent a Child with ADHD

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Finding out your child has ADHD can be difficult, but don't despair. There are some medications that can help your child with ADHD, and there are also many things you can do to successfully parent your child.

  1. Give yourself a break. You did not do anything wrong bringing up your child. Experts are still not certain what causes ADHD. Give yourself time to grieve and accept that changes will have to be made for your family.
  2. Learn everything you can about ADHD.  Buy books, talk to your pediatrician and check out websites (see links). The more you know about ADHD, the better you'll be able to parent your child.  Books recommended by the National Resource Center for AD|HD include Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell Barkley, Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach by Vincent Monastra and Making the System Work for Your Child with ADHD by Peter S. Jensen.  The National Resource Center for AD|HD has many other recommendations of books.    
  3. Make sure your child actually has ADHD. ADHD has symptoms similar to other disorders. A few disorders/problems with symptoms similar to ADHD include behavioral and disciplinary problems, Asperger's Syndrome (form of autism), learning disorders and autism. 

    According to the DSM-IV there are a number of symptoms of ADHD.  The DSM-IV is a diagnostic tool doctors and psychologists use to diagnose disorders.  These symptoms must be in place for at least six months to the point that it is disruptive and inappropriate for the developmental level your child is at.  Please do not diagnose your own child with ADHD based on the symptoms listed in the DSM-IV.  The National Resource Center for AD|HD recommends getting a comprehensive assessment done that includes medical, educational and psychological evaluations. Do not allow your school to simply diagnosis your child; they are not qualified.

  4. You will have to be patient with your child. Patience in parenting children with ADHD is imperative.
  5. Find structure in your life. Children with ADHD need structure. They need to know what their boundaries are, what rules are bendable (if any) and what rules are not. They will need to know the consequences of breaking those rules. Children with ADHD need to have a schedule. They need to know what time they will eat and what time they will sleep.  Depending on the severity of your child's ADHD, you may need to schedule every hour of your child's life or you may be able to have some flexibility.
  6. Be careful of overstimulating your child. ADHD can be a filtering problem. Children with ADHD have problems focusing and filtering out distractions. If you overstimulate your child with too many tasks, too many toys or too much noise, they will have greater difficulty focusing.
  7. Find your child's other skills. Many children with ADHD have other strengths like computers, art or athletics. To ensure positive self-esteem, emphasize these strengths.  
  8. Take care of yourself. If you are distressed or not well-rested, you will have greater difficulty caring and meeting the needs of your child. Make sure to do something for you and only you every day. If needed, speak to a counselor or find a support group.
  9. Take care of your family. Make sure you are caring for your partner, giving them support and breaks. Try to plan special dates or times away from your child so you and your partner will have a strong partnership. In addition, take care not to neglect your other children. While you will have to spend more time parenting a child with ADHD, your other children should know they are also important, loved and cared for.


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