So your child has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). While I'm sure there have been some frustrating times, understanding the diagnosis can be helpful. A thorough knowledge of the disorder can help you start the process to help your child work through it. Medication is only a part of helping a child with attention deficit disorder. There are steps you may take to help your child at home to provide a foundation for working through their obstacles in a way that medication cannot.
Create a Routine
Children in general need a routine. Having a routine helps them to learn and abide by your expectations and manage day-to-day chaos. It also teaches them responsibility. When a child’s normal daily activity is compounded by attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a routine becomes critically important. Start by helping them complete small daily rituals. Get things out they might need for school the night before. Make sure they wake up and get ready at the same time each morning and do homework directly after school or play in the back yard every day for an hour. An established routine can help cultivate planning skills your child may lack. This daily routine will also help them understand what to expect with their day, which can mean the world to a kid who may feel like they don’t know what to expect next.
Lead by Example: Show Them How to Be Neat and Organized
Many children are messy, but this trait seems to be amplified in a child with ADD or ADHD. Because kids affected by ADD or ADHD have trouble focusing, putting things away when they’re finished with them may be a difficult task to complete. It’s important they know everything has a place ― and who better to show them this than you! Structuring your home into a neat and orderly place and teaching a child with ADD and ADHD to completely put things away before they start something new can help them to learn focus.
Lights Out ― Including Electronics!
Everyone needs time to wind down. Imposing an electronics ban an hour before bed is good for everyone, but we find that it is especially important to help kids with ADD or ADHD find some quiet time before bed. Tablets, televisions, video games and phones all provide so much stimulus that it can be difficult for anyone to get to bed, and studies have shown that children and teens who do not shut down their electronic devices an hour before bed have later sleep times and experience less total sleep. Add to that the constantly busy mind of a child with ADD or ADHD, and it could be a recipe for a sleepless night.
Reward Them for Things Done Right
Something I try to remind parents of kids with ADD or ADHD is that their child is likely being corrected many times throughout the day. Whether it’s at home, at school or in extracurricular activities, the very nature of ADD and ADHD can lend itself to disruptive actions. Because of this, there’s a chance that the child is seeing a large dose of negative attention. Try to remain positive with them, and remember that it is so important to reward them for good behavior. Praising them for the things they are doing right and letting some of the things go that they could use some improvement in could result in big changes for your child!
Enlist Help at Your Child’s School
You should coordinate with the school and your child's teachers to optimize his education. Teachers can help by giving feedback on how your child is doing and responding to treatment. Also, you should inquire about services that the school can provide if your child continues to have difficulty in school.
Did you grow up with ADD or ADHD and have some suggestions? Are you a parent with a child working their way through ADD or ADHD with questions or ideas? Leave a comment below!
Dr. Angelica Higgins is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Pasadena whose clinical interests include breastfeeding, immunizations and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. She also enjoys helping parents understand preventive care.