Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 2 to 5 percent of all children in the U.S. It can also affect teens and may continue into adulthood. If you have a child with ADHD, don’t get discouraged. As one of the most common mental disorders affecting children, there has been much research on brain function and related behaviors, giving professionals more insight on the best course of treatment. There are many things you can do as a parent to better understand your child’s struggles and ways you can adjust your parenting style to meet their unique needs.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is a brain-based genetic syndrome marked by an ongoing pattern of hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with development or functioning. While anyone can suffer from this disorder, it’s most common in young people. ADHD in children is often characterized by impulsive or hyperactive behavior that makes focusing on a single task very difficult. Children with this condition may also have trouble sitting still for extended periods of time. This inability to focus is often evident at home and in school settings. Instead of learning experiences, sitting in a classroom and completing assignments can become major obstacles.
Boys are two to three times more likely to develop ADHD than girls although it’s not yet fully understood why. While all children have times when they express excitement or anxiousness, children with ADHD often act without thinking or display hyperactivity for a long period of time. While children with this condition may understand what is expected of them, they may have difficulty following the rules due to their inability to pay attention, sit still, or focus. Symptoms generally start early in life, often before the age of 12. Some of the most common symptoms of ADHD in children include:
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Easily distracted by people, things, or sounds
- Forgetfulness about completing tasks
- Difficulty sitting still
- Interrupting people while they are talking
- Frequent daydreaming
- Depression, anxiety, or an over-emotional state
- Being hyper-talkative instead of hyperactive
As a child grows older, these symptoms may become less severe. For example, an adult with ADHD is less likely to run or jump around when they’re excited. Adults with ADHD may experience other symptoms such as racing thoughts or a short attention span. They may also appear fidgety or act with a lack of restraint. This can lead to unstable relationships and poor work performance.
How to Parent a Child with ADHD
If your child has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, you’ll want to treat the condition as soon as possible, preferably before age 10. These early years can make a significant difference in your children’s growth and perspective of his or her condition. Provide a stable and structured environment for your child at home that consists of routines. Having designated daily routines can help children with ADHD learn responsibility which will help them better succeed in school. Also find your child’s strengths and pursue these areas as this will give your child confidence.
ADHD in children can lead to impaired social skills. Encourage your child to get involved with group activities such as sports teams, church groups, or hobby clubs. Not only do these types of activities build social skills, but they can also allow your child to make friends and discover new interests. However, your child’s confidence cannot be maintained without some level of success. Help your child set realistic and achievable goals. When he or she has made progress, provide praise. Children with ADHD may face many obstacles along the way but it’s important to express the importance of determination and resiliency to get through these hardships.
Research has shown that exposure to certain toxic chemicals, including those found in modern foods, cleaning products, and personal care products, may contribute substantially to conditions such as ADHD. In fact, diet has been shown to be a major factor in children’s’ ability to focus in school. Infants and small children are especially vulnerable to these toxins as their biological systems are still developing. Making simple changes such as choosing eco-friendly dishware free of BPA, lead, melamine, PVC, and phthalates can make a huge difference in your child’s health. Aim to create a healthier environment for your child with ADHD by eliminating harmful toxins in the environment, in their diet, and in the products they use.
ADHD in children can cause a variety of behaviors, many that are difficult to handle. It’s important as a parent to understand where you child is coming from. Your child’s behavior is not willful but simply caused by the way the brain is wired. Children with this condition are not always able to control their behaviors so you must be patient and understanding. Sharing the burden with another person such as a spouse or family member can make handling a child with ADHD more manageable. However, it’s important that all caregivers are on the same page regarding rules, discipline, and expectations.
Not all children with ADHD experience hyperactivity but those who do may find it nearly impossible to sit still. Managing constant movement can be hard on parents and their teachers once the child reaches school age. Fortunately, there are many strategies that parents can try to reduce
hyperactivity and calm hectic thoughts. Start your child off each day with a healthy breakfast. Hunger can make a child with ADHD more hyperactive. Also be sure that your child gets enough physical activity. Even a short walk outdoors can reduce symptoms and promote better overall health. Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise each day.
Parenting Solutions for ADHD
Many parents face uncertainty when their child is given a diagnosis of ADHD. While a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may struggle with assignments, have trouble socializing, or have difficulty focusing at home and school, ADHD can be managed. As a parent, it’s important to learn everything you can about the condition so that you can better treat your child’s symptoms and aid in the growth of a successful child. While preventative measures to reduce the incidence of ADHD are not yet know at this time, early detection and intervention are key for reducing symptoms and improving your child’s overall quality of life.