5 Top Tips for Parents of Children with ADHD
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, one of the most common neuropsychiatric and behaviour disorders, impacting between 4-8 % of children and young people. Yet it is surprising, how little we know and understand about children suffering with ADHD.
For children suffering with ADHD motor and cognitive processes are often impacted. Instead, children with ADHD can often be labelled as naughty or lazy, by teachers or family members who do not understand enough about the condition.
The brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters work differently. Recent studies have shown that children diagnosed with ADHD, nerve pathways can be less active or smaller in children with ADHD, then those without the disorder 1.
Dopamine carries signals to the brain linked to movement, sleep, mood, attention and learning, which could play a role in messages not getting to the brain at the right time.
3 Main Characteristics of ADHD
Getting a diagnosis is not as easy as you may think. Some children and parents can wait up to 2 years to be diagnosed, which can be really anxiety provoking for parents as they are unable to access support or treatment until their child is diagnosed.
To be diagnosed these characteristics need to be recognised across two settings, which is usually at home and by the school;
- Inattentive- difficulty focusing on tasks for a sustained period of time, losing interest in activities, forgetful in daily activities or making careless mistakes and getting distracted easily by external things
- Hyperactive– Excessive energy, fidgety, moving quickly and forcefully or excessive talking
- Impulsive– not thinking before doing things, risk taking and no sense of danger, blurting out answers and finding waiting for things difficult
Many of you reading this may be thinking, this is typical behaviour of an energetic child, particularly young boys. However, this needs to be significantly impacting on relationship and social interactions with peers, family members and school.
Hence, children tend to get diagnosed around the age of 7 upwards, despite having symptoms before this age, they are more than one would expect for the child’s age and level of development and are interfering with learning and other aspects of functioning at school.
5 Top Tips for Parents
- Use Positive Commands – We often tell children what we don’t want them to do, instead of what we do want them to do. Use positive commands to inform them of the behaviour you are expecting to see, instead of repeating what you don’t want them to do.
- Create Consistency- Children with ADHD like routines and boundaries. They respond well to structure. Even if it is the holidays, create a structure or a timetable of things to do and tell them what to expect at least a day before. They will then wake up knowing what it is they are doing and what is expected of them for the day.
- Incorporate Screen Time- Instead of spending hours of time battling over devices, incorporate screen time into your family time. Make it fun, take an interest in what they like to play. Find games which are creative and educational. To try to avoid tantrums, agree a time limit and try a visual timer or countdown, giving warnings before you turn the device off . You can also utilise screen time as a reward for good behaviour.
- Get Outside & banish treats at home- Avoid sugary drinks and high carbohydrate snacks or sweets at home. If you want to allow treats, buy them when you are out to avoid keeping sugary snacks in the cupboard. Increase outdoor activities like walking, cycling or playing outdoors to compliment any screen time. This helps to create balance and stability which is helpful for children with ADHD.
- Self Care – Parents make sure you look after yourselves. Try to do some activities for yourself, that you enjoy. It could be going to that yoga class or watching a movie, or maybe something more simple, like drinking your tea while it is hot and reading the newspaper! Whatever, makes you feel good. It is not selfish, but necessary. If you are less stressed, you will naturally have more energy to manage any challenging behaviour.
1.Childhood/adolescent ADHD and the brain by Dr Mitul Mehta https://adhd-institute.com/burden-of-adhd/aetiology/neurobiology/