- Cynthia Yoo
Effective Strategies to Support Your Child with ADHD
There are a variety of treatment and intervention strategies available to support children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These include medication, school accommodations, behavioral parent training, and counselling support. Daily self-care is also critical to enhancing the overall health and wellbeing of your child. Some parents find it helpful to schedule a daily routine to ensure that their child gets sufficient movement, nutrition, daylight, rest, sleep, play, and social connection in a day.
If your child has ADHD, remember that it is a brain-based disorder and that your child is not choosing to be uncooperative or difficult to manage. They are struggling to manage themselves and do what is expected of them because they lack skills. With this in mind, you play a crucial role in supporting your child’s developmental capacities and promoting their positive outcomes. Here are some suggestions on how you can support your child:
Help your child understand ADHD. Help them develop a realistic and optimistic understanding of themselves and their brain-based disorder. Help them recognize their strengths, capacities, accomplishments, developmental challenges, and underlying needs.
Promote a safe, trusting, and secure relationship. Make time to connect with your child in fun ways. Show them that you unconditionally accept them, appreciate them, and believe in their best intentions and capacity to do well.
Validate their feelings. Invite your child to share their successes and struggles with you. Let them know that you hear, understand, and accept their feelings - that they are not alone.
Maintain realistic expectations. Keep in mind that a 10 year-old child with ADHD has a brain that can resemble that of a 7 year-old’s without ADHD. Set realistic expectations for your child’s developmental age and find appropriate strategies to help your child meet your expectations. If your child is struggling, you can often help by changing your expectations, altering the environment, and/or offering more support to meet their developmental needs.
Be a positive role model. Show your child what self-care, self-regulation, respectful communication, problem-solving, self-advocacy, and resilience look like. Maintain a positive attitude and optimism around their capacity to learn and grow. Approach their challenges with patience, curiosity, and compassion.
Respond to them in a calm and flexible manner. Learn how to manage your own frustrations and anxiety so you don’t exacerbate theirs. When you are calm, you can role model and teach your child how to monitor and manage their own emotions and behavior (i.e., self-regulate).
Give them choices so they can develop their voice. Give your child options so that they get to decide how to do what they need to do. Teaching your child how to think for themselves will build their executive functioning skills and give them a sense of motivation, autonomy, and confidence to get the job done.
Create a predictable environment with consistent routines. When your child gets into the habit of a healthy routine, they will know what to expect and what is expected of them throughout a day. Provide consistent structure and support to help them meet their daily demands.
Promote their self-confidence. Encourage your child to keep trying when things are tough and show them you have faith in their capacity to handle things on their own. Give them room to make mistakes so they have the freedom to learn and grow.
Help them experience fulfillment, competence, and success. Make sure your child is regularly engaging in activities they enjoy and do well in. Find opportunities for them to socialize in fun ways to help develop their social skills whenever possible. The more a child struggles, the more we need to build their "islands of competence."
Praise, recognize, and reward their efforts and persistence. Give immediate, specific, and positive feedback to your child so they know what they did well and what to do more of. Focus more on their effort than on the outcome because outcomes are often beyond your child's control.
Remember that ADHD is a brain-based disorder. Children with ADHD are doing the best they can AND struggling to do well. What can you do? Show your child that you understand them, unconditionally accept them, and truly believe in them. This will help them understand, accept, and believe in themselves. Know that with your active support, your child can become more confident, resilient, and successful in life. Last, but not least, don’t forget to invest in your own self-care on a regular basis. Parenting a child with challenges is a challenge in and of itself. When your needs are met, you will be in a much better place to coach your child, support them, and cheer them on in their journey.
- Written by Cynthia Yoo, Registered Psychologist -
Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential - by Peg Dawson & Richard Guare
Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents - by Russell Barkley
The Survival Guide for Kids with ADHD - by John Taylor
Childmind Institute - resource for mental health and learning disorders
Understood - resource for learning and attention issues
CanLearn Society - helping children, youth and adults with learning, literacy, attention and related mental health challenges
Social Learning - resource for understanding how to support social learning in children