Helping your child or teen with ADHD is a full time job. As we transition into the new year you may have goals in mind for your child or teen. Some of these goals may be related to school, work, at home behaviors, and of course their happiness! Making a few small adjustments to your current parenting strategies and adding in some new components will set up your child, you, and your family to have the best year yet!
1.Avoid being critical or judgmental
Children and teens with ADHD often receive constant criticism throughout their day about their behavior and performance. Try using different words and phrasing to get your point across, but also to show that you understand how hard somethings can be for them. For example, when your child has trouble staying on task don’t say “PAY ATTENTION.”, instead say “Wow, it seems like it’s hard to concentrate today. Isn’t it?”
2.Shorten requests and directions
A common misconception about children and teens with ADHD is that they are ignoring their parents or they are lazy, but often they simply are forgetting what they need to be doing! I’m sure many parents can relate to giving their child a list of chores to do; only to find them later playing with a toy on their bed! Giving your child a long list of things to do often sets them up to fail. The ADHD brain simply is not designed that way. Once your child starts the tasks, there will most likely be numerous potential distractions. Following through with the lengthy list is unlikely. Oftentimes, your child will eventually get sucked in by a distraction. The best way to help your child is to limit your requests to one or two things at a time. Once he has completed that task then provide him with his next job.
3.Divide up a task
Breaking up a large request into smaller increments can make the task much more manageable for your child and set them up for success (which will help increase their self-esteem). For example, if your child’s bedroom is a complete mess instead of asking them to clean their entire room, ask them to simply pick up their dirty clothes or put all their toys away. Giving them these smaller and specific request will help them stay on task.
4.Give rewards…even to teenagers
Creating a reward system can help your child or teen establish healthy habits and reinforce positive behaviors. Reward your child after a task is done, but not before. Some rewards can be immediate, but you can also set up long term reward systems. For example, place a marble in the “reward jar” every time your child makes their bed or another desired task. Once the jar is full your child gets a treat, extra privilege or other reward!
I’ve heard people say that children, particularly teenagers, shouldn’t be given rewards for doing what’s expected. What happens when we as adults shows up to work every day? Your teenager’s “work” is showing up and working hard in middle school or high school. We as adults are rewarded for positive behavior whether it’s in the form of positive relationships, a salary or something else. Why don’t teens deserve the same?
5.Provide your teen gentle guidance & reminders
Your child likely needs a lot of cueing to stay on task and get things done, but teenagers with ADHD often do as well. Check in on your child while they are doing a task. You might need to remind them what they need to be doing frequently in a kind voice. As a parent of a child with ADHD, you may have to keep in touch with the school a little more. You may check the school website to see what homework assignments have been given. This way, you can check in and ask if they’ve done something specific. A gentle reminder is all they need to help them get back on task if they have become distracted. In fact, yelling can cause them to get even more off task! Be clear with what they need to be doing and be kind.
6.Get a timer
Those with ADHD often have difficultly conceptualizing time. Get a timer that shows how much time is remaining. This way, your child can see how much time they have left to get ready to go to school or how much longer they have to play games on their tablet. A specific brand I would recommend is called a “Time Timer”, which shows time with a diminishing red circle.This timer works well for many children because it shows the passage of time visually with more than just numbers!
7.Create designated areas for homework & belongings
Creating a specific spot where items go every time your child uses them will help them stay organized. It will also help reduce the amount of items that get lost! For example, help your child choose a place in the house to put their backpack. This way, every day when they get home from school it becomes a habit to put the backpack there. Or have a hook by the door that a driving age teen can hang their keys on as they walk in the door. If your child is struggling in school, you may also have a designated place in the house for homework. They can keep all items frequently needed for homework in this area.
8.Create a space with minimal distractions
Having a space that is as distraction free as possible will help your child complete tasks – such as homework – successfully. Find a place that the rest of the family will not be around too often and remove all technology such as television, tablets, and phones. Also make this space separate from where your child plays or relaxes.
9.Check your parenting expectations
Take a moment to think about the expectations you have for your child. Goals should be reasonable and attainable. If not, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed and your child to feel negative about themselves. Sit down and talk about the goals you have for your child for doing homework or getting chores done. Be sure to ask your child or teen them about what they feel they can accomplish. They may have ideas about what can be done or changed to make them more successful!
10.Take care of YOU…Self Care is important for parents!
Parenting a child with ADHD is a full time commitment that can be very stressful and exhausting, so it’s important take care of your mental and physical well-being. Don’t be too hard on yourself – you are working hard and doing the best you can for your child! Self care can be critical for your own mental health as a parent. And let’s be honest, you will be a better, more understanding, more patient parent when your own needs are met. It going to be nearly impossible to help regulate your child if you are feeling out of control and overwhelmed yourself. Take a walk with a friend, eat some ice cream, or blast your favorite song in the car in the carpool line. Meditation is also a fabulous form of self care. Having moments each day that you can center yourself and let off steam will make this year the best yet!
Counseling for Parents & Teens in Columbia, MO
As a Mid Missouri mental health clinic, Aspire Counseling often works with stressed out parents. In our counseling office, you will have a safe space where you can express all of your emotions (your love for your child but also the frustration, fears and even the anger), get gentle consultation and guidance about parenting techniques and general parenting support. Our trained mental health counselors will use evidence based counseling techniques to help you identify your personal values as a parent and find new ways forward consistent with those values.
We also have counseling services for teenagers with ADHD. Often we focus on mindfulness and teaching self regulation skills, particularly when a teenager’s ADHD symptoms are interfering with their ability to be successful in school or their interpersonal relationships. We have multiple therapists who specialize in seeing teenagers. Our counselors can sometimes even be helpful working with your child’s middle school or high school IEP team to maximize their success at school.
Call today to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert counselors for yourself, your teenager or your family! Healing starts here.
About Alice Whitten, Guest Blog Post Author
Alice Whitten, M.A. is a mental health therapist at Brittani Persha Counseling, a Houston, TX area counseling clinic that specializes in child counseling, teen mental health services and family therapy. At Brittani Persha Counseling, therapists are child behavior experts providing help with a wide range of mental health concerns, often through play therapy or EMDR adapted for children. Their therapists are experts in ADHD working with children, teenagers and families battling the symptoms of ADHD on a daily basis. They also specialize in helping children, teens and parents struggling with the effects of anxiety and trauma.