by Clinical Psychologist Joanna Kleovoulou
AD(H)D is not just a disorder that can disrupt school performance, it is an all-day disorder. AD(H)D clearly also affects how children get along with friends and family, complete homework assignments and chores, and participate in after-school activities. Here are some tips that parents can use to help effectively manage the symptoms of AD(H)D:
- Work with your child to create a plan & maintain a regular schedule. Be aware of how AD(H)D can affect your child’s life. Target each event – homework, fun, and family – then work with him or her to stay on track. Work with your child to follow a consistent plan at home, in school, after school, and on weekends. Ease the strain of AD(H)D. Keep routines fun and take breaks when times get tough to help relieve the stress of AD(H)D.
- Build a support team that includes parents, teachers, instructors, youth pastors and coaches. Talk with them about how AD(H)D affects your child’s life. Discuss successes and work together on the challenges. Manage AD(H)D for the long-term. Consider Neurotherapy as a treatment option and/or work with your doctor to develop a total treatment program, which may include long-acting medication that doesn’t require frequent doses. To help your child stay focused all day, use techniques to help him modify his/her behaviour. Understand the challenges of AD(H)D. Know that AD(H)D is a medical problem that makes it more difficult to control behaviour and attention.
- Use available resources. Take time to teach your child how to use calendars, organizers, and written reminders to help him or her stay focused all through the day. Encourage participation in after-school activities. Look for structured activities that use energy constructively and build social skills to bring success in and out of school.
- Evaluate your child’s personal strengths and weaknesses. Managing AD(H)D requires discipline, a positive attitude, and good planning skills. Recognize EVERY win. Review your child’s progress regularly and celebrate accomplishments, small and large.
Talking about & explaining AD(H)D to your child after he/she has been diagnosed can help remove the mystery surrounding the struggles he/she knows he’s/she’s been having. It can also help a child feel a greater sense of control. It can be hard to take in all the information given during this meeting, and both you and your child may have lots of questions. Learning about AD(H)D is an ongoing process, and the positive ways in which you communicate and relate with your child will enable him/her to feel free coming to you for support and answers.
When disciplining a child with AD(H)D try to be consistent in rules and boundaries. Read his/her pre-explosive warning signals. Quietly intervene to avoid explosions by distracting him/her or discussing the conflict calmly. Removal from the battle zone to the sanctuary of his/her room for a few minutes is useful. Tone down your voice when reprimanding your child. Anger is normal but it needs to be controlled. Be mindful to keep your emotions in tact by preparing for expected chaos. Avoid attacking the child’s personality – rather focus on the behaviour. E.g., “I like you, but wasting water is not ok.” Recognize and respond to any positive behaviour, however small. Catch your child doing “good”. Avoid a negative approach: “Stop”—”Don’t”—”No.” Demonstrate new or difficult tasks, using action accompanied by short, clear, gentle explanations. Repeat the demonstration until learned. The memory traces of a hyperactive child take longer to form. Be patient and repeat. Designate a separate room or a part of a room that is his/her own special area. Simplicity, solid colors, minimal clutter and a worktable facing a blank wall away from distractions assist concentration. A hyperactive child cannot filter out over-stimulation yet. Do one thing at a time: Give him/her one toy from a closed box; clear the table of everything else when coloring; turn off the radio/TV when s/he is doing homework. Multiple stimuli prevent concentration on the primary task. Do not pity, tease, be frightened by, or overindulge this child. S/he has a special condition of the nervous system that is manageable. Know the name and dose of his/her medication. Give it regularly. Watch and remember the effects to report back to your physician. Openly discuss with your physician any fears you have about the use of medications. Lock up all medications to avoid accidental misuse. Share your successful “helps” with his/her teacher. The outlined ways to help your hyperactive child are as important to him/her as diet and insulin are to a diabetic child.