A guide for parents on child ADHD

May 1, 2008

A guide for parents about managing their child's ADHD.

Self-esteem

Given the toll that ADHD can place on a child's self-esteem, parents should consider what are reasonable expectations in the major areas of their child's life to protect and enhance self-esteem. Can your child go right from school to doing homework? How long can they do homework without a break for something they enjoy and succeed at-eg, video games, television, athletics, art? How much additional sitting-still time can they do? Dinners? Religious services? How much of their room can they keep neat or organized? How neat? Setting reasonable expectations means taking all the factors-severity of the ADHD, IQ, child's personality, family functioning, and other stressors-into account.

It is also important to remember that no one, not even parents, function at peak all day every day. To be reasonable and assure some success, take 10% or 20% off the peak.

Parents may regret that what they wanted their child to achieve might not be reasonable because of ADHD, or perhaps other factors (eg, not studious, too short to be a basketball star, etc.). These imagined losses feel real, but create a path for greater feasible success based on consistent reasonable expectations agreed to by both parents.

TRY THIS Parents should "look into the mirror" to recount their own past expectations, recognize what expectations or hopes (fulfilled and unfulfilled) from their own childhood are being placed on their child, or what expectations derive from the wishes of the extended family or broader community.

Parents often state, "Just do your best!" This statement sounds simple and child-oriented, but it is often a false promise of tolerance and acceptance. "Just do your best" allows parents to avoid setting a clear, reasonable expectation, and no one does his or her best frequently or by intention. Case in point: A parent's best pace for a run, lowest golf score, or biggest sales month happens most often by surprise, not by design. And few of us exceed our best the next time we try.

TRY THIS The concept of "just do your best" is often an unreasonable expectation that is likely to lead more often to a sense of failure rather than success, so avoid using it.

Family life

The relationships between siblings can be deeply impacted by the different requirements and characteristics that a sibling with ADHD brings. Non-afflicted siblings, for example, may feel disenfranchised about the extra time/attention paid to their sister or brother.

TRY THIS If possible, create special opportunities aimed at compensating for feelings of resentment between siblings, or note special activities or plans designed to meet every family member's needs.

Some families work tirelessly to compensate and remediate ADHD, and even more so if there are associated learning disabilities. The child's whole life becomes continuous schooling with inevitable tension. Children with ADHD need more time than most for fun."

TRY THIS Promote fun in a pool instead of swimming lessons. Rather than buying a novel for your child, try comics, magazines, or sports pages. You can also encourage surfing the Web (with parental controls).

Research has shown that children with ADHD often have a very positive use for computers. Personal computers are unconditionally accepting, produce neat results, never criticize, offer second and third chances under the child's control, can help with spelling and organization, and provide much-needed fun and relaxation. Therefore, many children with ADHD really enjoy playing video games.

TRY THIS Keep an open mind about the use of the computer and other electronic supports, with the caveat that they should not be used to the point of social isolation.