Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Parenting children with ADHD can be particularly challenging. These tips may be useful for parents who have children with ADHD. However, it's important to remember that no two children are alike, and what works best for one family may not be helpful for another. The following tips are based upon expert opinions and strategies that have been useful for many families of children with ADHD.
Work together as a team. This means that parents, educators, tutors, therapists, and others involved in the care of the child should be on the same page regarding treatment plans and goals. Sharing information with the others involved in your child's care is essential to ensure that he or she receives needed support. Treat your child's teachers as allies and work together for optimal outcomes at home and in the classroom.
Embrace structure and predictability. Children with ADHD need clear definitions of routines and expectations. Predictability is also helpful for adults with ADHD. You can help your child use and understand schedules by making a daily schedule that includes time to get ready for school, do homework, free or play time, and bedtime. Older children may benefit from the use of clocks, timers, or charts to help them manage their day. If the child enjoys this, he or she can check items off a checklist as they are completed.
Define rules and expectations. Children with ADHD do not deal well with ambiguity or changes in rules and expectations. As with the daily schedule, it may be helpful to make lists of goals, rules, or expectations for behavior.
Use positive feedback. It is always better to use more positive than negative feedback when talking with your child. Be concrete and specific, and praise your child for the things that he or she does well or completes on time. Rather than offering costly prizes or incentives, reward positive behavior with rewards such as special time with a parent or a special privilege.
Use appropriate consequences for negative behaviors. Consequences for negative behaviors should be fair and appropriate. Ideally, the consequence for a child with ADHD should be an immediate event rather than something that occurs in the future. As with other aspects of the child's schedule, the consequences for negative behavior should be predictable and consistent.
Be specific when giving instructions. It may be helpful to focus on one task or event at a time when giving instructions to your child. For younger children, breaking a task down into its component steps can be helpful. Specific instructions like, “Put the books back on the shelf,” are more helpful for a child with ADHD than general instructions like, “Clean up your room.”
Tackle one thing at a time. While you may want to help your child overcome a number of difficult behaviors, it's best to focus on one or two at a time. Set both short-term (“learn to control interruptions at the dinner table for 10 minutes at a time”) and long-term (“stop interrupting at the dinner table 90% of the time”) goals and remember to use praise and rewards for achievements.
Help your child eliminate distractions and manage time. Especially older children may need help establishing a homework routine that is free from distraction. You can help them create a homework space that is pleasing, quiet, and free from distraction. Your child may appreciate the use of a timer to help with homework in order to focus on one subject for a given amount of time, or to schedule 10-minute breaks after every hour of homework. It can also be helpful to look at long-term projects such as term papers and draw up an “action plan” for the project, breaking it down into manageable steps. Older children may appreciate learning to use mobile apps to help them manage their time.
Model a healthy lifestyle. Your child will look to you as a model, so be sure that you are modeling the choices you'd like to see him or her make with regard to nutrition and exercise. Consuming a healthy diet and maintaining a normal weight will help your child face the demands of ADHD and other life stressors.
Finally, value and embrace your child's uniqueness. Many famous and highly accomplished people are living with ADHD. Remind your children of this fact and help them find the areas in which they can excel. And don't forget to show your unconditional love for the unique person that is your child.