Caring for an ADHD child

By Dr Brendan Belsham

A game plan for caring for your ADHD child
Bouncing off the walls. Constant interruptions. Poor listening. Aggressive outbursts. Taking care of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be exhausting and frustrating. Parents, teachers and caregivers are often challenged by the symptoms and resulting behaviours of a child with ADHD. A one-size-fits-all child care rules fly out the window and normal household or classroom routines can become near impossible to follow.

Parents, teachers and caregivers need a game plan to manage behaviours, effectively channel excessive energy and help a child overcome the daily challenges of ADHD. This firstly requires adults to modify their own approach to child care and to remember that the ADHD brain functions differently. The right treatment and child care plan can manage ADHD symptoms and create an environment in which parents and teachers can better guide an ADHD child to learn, flourish and lead a successful life. Here’s a game plan to start implementing today.

Incorporate structure and consistency
Children need both affection and structure to develop into secure adults. A structured environment with consistent daily routines is comforting and beneficial to an ADHD child. Clearly explain the house or classroom rules and stick to a daily routine with easy chores and set homework, play, meal and bedtimes. Consistency is key as a last-minute change in a familiar routine can derail the hard-earned concentration of an ADHD child.

Break big tasks into manageable parts
A child with ADHD may struggle to concentrate for an extended time and can lose interest if a task takes too long to complete. By breaking tasks into smaller parts, the child will experience more successes of completion throughout the day. Always give clear instructions and use visual cues such as a large colour coded wall calendar to remind and keep the child focused on the most important tasks of the day only.

Create a pause-think-act habit
Impulsivity and hyperactivity often cause children with ADHD to speak or act without thinking. By encouraging a “pause” moment, the child will have time to reflect before responding to questions. Asking an ADHD child to verbalise his or her thoughts can also help to limit impulsive behaviours, and over time, these reflective actions will become habit.

Put a lid on distractions
By putting yourself in the shoes of a child, you can quickly identify possible distractions, particularly in a study or classroom. Be mindful of the impact of screen time on a child with ADHD and have set rules in place for easily accessible distractions such as games on mobile phones. Fill the void with physical activities that can put all that excess energy to good use. Exercise can help to improve concentration and decrease depression and anxiety.

Model and reward good behaviour
Children mimic the behaviours they see particularly from the adults around them. By remaining calm during outbursts, an ADHD child will be encouraged to do the same. A child with ADHD will also feel more accepted and supported when parents and teachers express their confidence in a child’s abilities and reward good behaviour. Try to keep any behavioural therapy practices consistent in all areas whether that be the school or home environment.

Create consistent sleeping patterns
A lack of sleep intensifies inattention, hyperactivity and recklessness. Help a child with ADHD get sufficient sleep by depleting excess energy before bed time. Avoid food with stimulants like sugar and caffeine. Be sure to stick to regular sleeping patterns and use the time to recharge your own energy levels.

Finding belonging in the home and school environment can be challenging for children with ADHD. With the right attitude and approach, parents and teachers can have a life-changing impact on an ADHD child. Children with ADHD will benefit greatly from essential life management skills and a good sense of humour imparted on them by caring adult mentors.

Visit MyADHD for the most up-to-date articles on ADHD and how to rise above the challenges. The MyADHD Facebook community is also a great place to connect and share with other adults raising a child with ADHD.