By Brian Inglesby, M.A., L.E.P.
Supporting your child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) at home can be very tiring. But to help your child succeed, you'll need to coach him daily. You'll find it's easier if you have a practical and meaningful plan geared to his level of development and his particular AD/HD symptoms.
General parenting tips
- When developing a plan to help your child, you'll need to adjust the rules and consequences to your child's level of development. Many kids who have AD/HD behave as if they're much younger than their true age.
- Explain to your child that you care about him and you'll do your best to understand what he's going through.
- Show him how proud you are of his accomplishments with praise and affection. Catch him being good.
- Set up a few clear rules and be consistent. Don't argue over small things. Say no less often, but mean it when you say it.
- When giving your child directions or instructions, check for his understanding. Keep directions short.
- Some kids with AD/HD have a hard time putting their thoughts in order. Ask "Who? What? Where? When? Why?" to help him think about and explain what's important.
- Establish open lines of communication from a young age. Don't be afraid to talk to him about his strengths and needs and how AD/HD affects him. He should be brought into the loop so he can understand what AD/HD is and is not. Often kids misunderstand what's wrong with them when adults don't give them the facts.
Academic support at home
- Set up a regular routine for homework. Try to schedule homework for the same time and place each day. If you involve your child in setting the schedule, he may be more cooperative in completing homework.
- When he's working on homework, schedule regular breaks for activity every 10 or 15 minutes. Let him walk around, get a drink of water, or have a snack. Use a timer to monitor breaks and time spent working on homework. Often kids with AD/HD have difficulty managing time. They need to learn how to plan ahead and pace themselves.
- Offer rewards for doing homework. Coordinate the program with his teacher. The goal is to lessen your direct supervision and gradually have him take responsibility for completing his work. His chances of success may be better if you propose a reward or consequence and follow through on it.
- Give non-judgmental, constructive feedback. You might say, "I'm glad you started working on that paper. I'm looking forward to reviewing the first few paragraphs tomorrow," rather than "You haven't done a thing all week."
- Organizing your child's homework might be the most difficult task to deal with. An assignment book or sheet that the teacher can sign may prevent confusion about assignments. If he forgets his materials or the assignment book at school or home, then consequences should be logical. For instance, have him return to school to get what he needs.
Behavioral support at home
- Tell your child what you want him to do rather than what you don't want. For instance, say, "Please finish your math homework" rather than " Stop bothering your sister."
- Prepare your child for any change in routine. Many kids with AD/HD don't take surprises or change very well. If you expect a change, review the rules, agree on a possible incentive or reward for good behavior, and clearly state the consequences for misbehaving.
- Reinforce even small, positive changes in your child's behavior. As you help him realize the progress he is making, his motivation and self-confidence will increase.
- If you need to cool off from a difficult moment with your child, find a friend or neighbor to watch him, even for 15 minutes. To take care of your child, you have to take care of yourself too.
- Regular communication between home and school may be necessary for the first several months of school. A communication plan should be initiated with the teacher during the first month of school. Depending upon your child's age, daily, weekly, or monthly plans can be developed to monitor your child's behavior and schoolwork.
- When designing a behavior plan with the teacher, it's often helpful to estabish consequences and rewards together and agree on how to enforce them. Similar language should be used with your child at home and school for consistency.
- Schedule regular meetings with teachers and school support staff to monitor progress of your child's behavior or action plan. Depending on his age, he should be present during the discussion of the school-based plan. By 5th or 6th grade, he can probably be involved in describing problems affecting his learning and setting his goals
- If your child is on medication, ask the teacher to provide feedback to you about its effectiveness. Consult with your child's doctor regularly, at least twice a year. Share medical reports with school personnel.
AD/HD by other names and acronyms
While attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) is the official term and acronym used by today's mental health care professionals, it is sometimes referred to by other names and abbreviations. For example, it is sometimes called:
ADHD (without the slash in the middle)
Attention deficit disorder (ADD)