It seems like every day I have another parent asking me if their child has ADHD (aka Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). The answer isn’t an easy one, neither is the solution. I wrote a post trying to help answer this very question. If you want more information about how to know if your child’s behavior may or may not be ADHD, read Hyperactive or just busy…Could your child have ADHD?
If you think your child has ADHD, but aren’t sure if they need medication or not, there are some things you can do that should help. Will these effective parenting tips keep your child from needing medication? No. If a child is in need of medication, then, I recommend medicating them. Medication alone can not help a child that is truly ADHD. The most effective treatment is medication along with therapy and effective parenting.
I’ve talked before about effective parenting. I don’t think enough attention is paid to the importance of proper parenting. I see parents that want me to fix their child, when the problem is that the child is in need of consistency and routine. Children NEED consistent routines, especially children with ADHD.
- Routine is unbelievably important. Doing things according to a schedule helps a child learn what to anticipate day after day. Using lists or pictures can be helpful to remind children what they are responsible for and keep them on task. Even with routine, your ADHD child will still need help getting everything done.
- Make sure the rules are clear and followed consistently. If you have rules that are only enforced some of the time, the child will not know when they do or don’t have to follow the rules. This leads to frustration for the child and the parent. And, needless to say, inconsistent results!
- Give the kids something to be responsible for…this could be helping to take care of pets, taking out the trash, or other chores around the house. This helps the child feel important, learn responsibility, and also builds self-esteem. You will have to remind your child to do their chores, it isn’t going to just happen. Having a list and checking off chores/responsibilities as they accomplish them can be helpful, and is a good way to reinforce good behavior.
- Praise and Positive Reinforcement is a must for disciplining all children, especially children with ADHD. Recognize & Praise good behavior and accomplishments. Just getting homework or small chores done can be challenging for children with attention issues.
- Limit “screen time” - This includes all screens, such as TV, video games, computer, etc. Screen time should be limited to just 2-3 hours per day, and should be turned off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This isn’t hard to enforce during the school year because there is limited free time after school. It is a little more challenging during the Summer. Being more liberal with this rule during the summer is ok, just remember, you will see a difference in the child’s behavior; and it is essential to get back into a school routine a week or 2 before school actually starts.
- Have a good bedtime routine with an acceptable bedtime. Kids in preschool and early elementary grades should be in bed by 7:30-8:30, upper elementary should be 8:30-9, middle school 9-9:30, and high school should be between 9-10. For more information about sleep, please see my blog, Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development. A tired child has trouble focusing, paying attention, and retaining information. For preschool aged children, there is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.
- Watch what your child is eating, 3 healthy meals and snacks are important for good brain function. Adding essential fatty acids to a child’s diet helps promote good brain function. Eliminate artificial food dyes (AFDs) from the child’s diet. AFDs have been proven to increase hyperactivity in the majority of children. A study done in Great Britain in 2006 documented that 75% of children demonstrated hyperactive behavior correlated with ingestion of AFDs and Sodium Benzoate. I have recommended this intervention to many families, and received many Thank You’s because it makes such an obvious difference in the child’s behavior. I firmly believe that AFDs should be eliminated from our food supply altogether. AFDs have been outlawed in Canada, Britain, Germany and a few other countries.
- If your child has allergies, treat allergies with a daily allergy medication. Allergies can make ADHD worse! Allergies are a hypersensitivity, ADHD is a hypersensitive state…1+1=2, it’s that simple (not really, but treatment is a must).
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activity helps to regulate the neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in those with ADHD. Participation in sports can be helpful and rewarding for your child. Daily outside time, even when it’s cold should be the norm. Tell your kids to run around the house a few laps before dinnertime, it gets the wiggles out.
- Whatever your child is good at, encourage it! Whether their forte’ is math, sports, or creating, encourage it! Without our multitasking, intelligent ADHDers, we would not have telephones, airplanes, or many of the inventions and discoveries we take for granted everyday. My above mentioned ADHD post expands on this, even listing all the famous people throughout history that have/had ADHD, check it out!
These interventions take time and effort on the part of parents. They are useful for all kids of all ages, but especially necessary for kids with ADHD. Many of these interventions are just good, effective parenting.
If a child is in need of medication, these interventions will NOT replace the need for medicating the child. There are typically side effects of medication for most kids, and this can be worrisome to parents. Some of the side effects can be decreased appetite when med is at it’s peak, headaches, stomach aches, mood swings, and sleep issues. It’s important to figure out if the medication is actually to blame, or if there is another underlying reason for the unwanted symptoms. For example, most ADHD kids will have trouble falling asleep, it may be the ADHD or too much screen time, and not the medication. It’s also important to evaluate which is worse, the side effects or the effects of untreated ADHD?? In my professional and personal opinion, the effects of untreated ADHD can be much worse than the side effects of the medication. Trust me, I’m living the ADHD thing with my son. Look for a post on untreated ADHD soon.
Having an ADHD child takes effort, patience, and frequently a little wine. ADHD children are challenging, difficult to parent, and also rewarding. Those creative ADHD minds are awesome to watch create, absolutely fascinating sometimes. So, if you are dealing with an ADHDer, don’t forget to stop and look at the positive side of this challenge. These ADHDers are going to do amazing things for society, they just need a little TLC, and A LOT of guidance to get there.
Good luck, and regardless of the challenges…. don’t forget to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!