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Parenting Tips for Raising a Child with ADHD

School has resumed and families are establishing new routines.

Key points

  • New routines can be particularly challenging for children with ADHD.
  • Creating morning and evening routines can help kids with ADHD avoid distractions and get enough sleep.
  • Setting clear expectations and rewards, teaching communication skills, and exercising can also help families with ADHD.
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Mother on walk with kids
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School has resumed and families are establishing routines around their "new normal." As the leaves begin to fall and the temperature drops, many families will find they are changing up their routines yet again. This can be particularly challenging for parents who are raising children with ADHD.

If you find that you are a parent struggling to adjust to this transition, here are some tips that may help you create more structure in your everyday life.

1. Set Good Morning and Evening Routines

We are all creatures of habit, especially children with ADHD. Write down a morning and evening schedule with times. If your child is not reading, use visual cues, such as pictographs. Routines will keep your child from getting distracted, ensure they are getting the sleep they need, and make your life easier. Make sure not to deviate from the schedule too much on the weekends, as this might make Mondays very hard.

2. Use Communication as a Teaching Moment

Your child is constantly learning while watching how you communicate with them and with others. By age 8, your child will notice discrepancies between your words and actions. Children with ADHD have more trouble with communication than children who do not have ADHD. Kids with ADHD may have trouble being able to see another person’s point of view, trouble with information retention, and difficulty listening due to distractions.

I recommend using communication as a learning tool at home to teach kids how to ask for what they want. Emphasize eye contact and encourage children to not use baby talk. This is also an opportune time to coach your children on how to handle rejection. As I talk about in my book, No Shame, rejection is a vital aspect of life. Learning to bounce back from rejection is a skill that can be learned early with the support of parents.

3. Exercise Helps Focus The Mind

Kids with an ADHD diagnosis often lack impulse control. When you see that your child is becoming restless, encourage them to verbalize their thinking patterns. This will not only help them with their communication skills, but it will also help you gain insight into their thought process and then redirect undesirable behaviors. If your child is bouncing off the walls, do something physical with them. Go on a walk and identify different types of foliage or turn up your favorite tunes for “dance and freeze.” This activity will help kids practice their balance and work on their listening skills. After physical play, your child is more likely to be able to complete homework assignments or household chores.

4. Set Clear Expectations and Clear Rewards

Set an expectation for the completion of a task, let your child know they will be rewarded once the task is completed, and follow through. Your child will be more motivated to complete the task if you are consistent with expectations and rewards. Make sure the reward is something your child actually wants. I find that 10 minutes of extra screen time, having friends over for playdates, and half-hour later bedtimes work well as rewards in my house.

5. Don't Let the Little Things Get You Down

As they say, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Parenting is challenging and often unpredictable. Remember that the way you react to your children is rooted in how you feel about yourself. Talk to yourself with kindness, give yourself breaks, and make sure you acknowledge when you are not in a good headspace.

This post also appears on Medium.

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