Parenting a child with AD/HD or any form of special needs is indeed a challenge. In my work with children with mental and developmental issues I see the caregivers as the main point of entry in helping that child. I focus on employing parents with the confidence and strategies needed to feel competent with their kiddos. I also spend a great deal of time and effort educating parents in all they need to know about their child's development to be the most effective parents possible. With an AD/HD diagnosis there are 9 main domains affected in the child's cognition and behavior and I've compiled a list of the most helpful techniques that I use and recommend to parents to address each one:
1 | Increase Sustained Attention
Find ways to playfully take a pause from activities requiring sustained concentration. Whether you say “freeze!”, “red light,” “brain break” or another signal between you and your child, this will help your kiddo re-focus on the task at hand. The best way to take a break to help your child regain concentration is a sensorimotor activity, like jumping on a trampoline or playing "blanket burritos."
2 | Foster Self-Awareness
Utilize yoga cards or mindfulness activities for kids to help your child bring awareness to their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Think of self-awareness like a muscle that needs to be flexed on a regular basis to get strong. These don't have to be serious sit down discussions with your child — you can help your child naturalistically develop greater awareness in the day-to-day experiences of life.
3 | Aid Working Memory
Working memory involves the ability to hold multiple pieces of information in one's mind at once. Knowing that working memory is impaired in AD/HD, keep requests short and sweet. Start with one or two at a time, slowly working your way up to more complex instructions. Your child will be naturally motivated to increase their ability to complete more complex tasks over time to gain more independence.
4 | Support Emotional Regulation
Connect to your child’s emotional state through verbally reflecting what they’re most likely feeling in that moment. Then redirect them to a soothing activity to bring them back into a state of emotional regulation. Lastly, teach them self-soothing strategies they can use when you’re not there to facilitate the process. Learn more about Dr. Dan Siegel's "Connect & Redirect."
5 | Build Social Skills
Assist your child in becoming more thoughtful of their impact on others by asking questions such as “...and how do think your friend felt in that moment?” Instead of giving your take on the situation, let your kiddo grapple with it to develop better reflective capacities. If your kiddo with AD/HD has a sibling, get them in on the conversation, too, so that the two can better learn how to resolve conflicts between one another.
6 | Promote Cognitive Flexibility
Instead of asking the same old “how was your day at school?” instead ask, “what was a tricky position you were in today?” and help your child work through the various responses they can make to a similar dilemma in the future. Check out "Bubble Gum Brain" — a book encouraging cognitive flexibility.
7 | Encourage Problem-Solving
Err on the side of being under-helpful. Kids need the chance to work through difficult challenges to become expert problem-solvers. Instead of doing difficult tasks for your child, provide ample verbal encouragement throughout the process. This requires patience and perseverance, as it is often easier and faster to do for our kids.
8 | Boost Initiation
Harness your child’s imagination and intrinsic motivation! Start an “idea parking lot” where you and your kiddo write down exciting activity ideas you can do once the task at hand is completed. This will help your child stay motivated through tasks involving cognitive effort.
9 | Improve Organization
Utilize visual aids as much as you need to. Does your kiddo need a visual schedule to get through their morning routine? A checklist of what to pack into their backpack before heading home from school? Keep these visuals handy to support your child’s ability to stay organized. Keep the routine of using the aids to that they become an automatic habit.
I hope you find these tool and resources helpful. I know I rely on these ideas heavily in my clinical practice and find them incredibly useful not only with children with AD/HD, but also autistic kiddos, and of course neurotypical children, too. Let me know in the comments section if you have any tips you would add to the list. If you are a parent of a child with AD/HD, what have you found most useful in supporting your child's development and growth? Thanks for reading ad be well.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.