Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). It can cause a wide range of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Both children and adults may be diagnosed with the disorder, though in some cases, children grow out of many symptoms.
At Memphis Neurology, with locations in Germantown, Tennessee, and Southaven, Mississippi, our expert team of neurologists treats all manner of behavioral disorders, including ADHD. They recognize that caring for a child with ADHD can be a challenging experience for any parent, so they’ve put together this guide to help you understand what measures you can take to support your child in all areas of their life.
The fundamentals of ADHD
According to the CDC, one in 10 children aged five to 17 years receives an ADHD diagnosis — that makes it one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders in the United States. Boys are diagnosed more than twice as much as girls, perhaps because they more often exhibit hyperactivity.
ADHD is often associated with problems in a controlled classroom setting, though it affects all aspects of a child’s life. Symptoms include:
- Daydreaming often
- Forgetting things or losing them
- Squirming and fidgeting
- Chattering excessively
- Making careless mistakes or taking unnecessary risks
- Having difficulty resisting temptation
- Having difficulty getting along with others
How to support a child with ADHD
Monitoring your child constantly can be both frustrating and exhausting; it can take a lot of energy to get them to listen to instructions, finish a task, or even sit still. While ADHD isn’t caused by bad parenting, effective parenting strategies can go a long way to correct behavioral problems.
Children with ADHD need structure in their lives, as well as consistency, clear communication, and a system of rewards and consequences for their behavior. They also need love, support, and encouragement from their parents. Here are some suggestions for how you can most effectively support your child.
Children with ADHD succeed in completing tasks more often when those tasks occur in predictable patterns and take place in predictable places. Make sure your child knows what to expect from you and others, and what they’re expected to do in terms of schoolwork, chores, and other activities. The more consistent the routine, the better they’ll be able to handle the challenges.
Set clear expectations and boundaries
Make clear, well-established rules for behavior, and set up a system of rewards and consequences. Some suggestions for rewards might be:
- Reward with privileges, praise, or activities, not food or toys
- Change rewards frequently so your child doesn’t get bored
- Create a chart with points or stars posted for good behavior; creates a visual reminder of things done well
- Establish a system of small rewards that lead to a big one, or grant immediate rewards instead of promising something in the future; always follow through
Some suggestions for consequences might be:
- Spell out consequences of wrong behavior in advance and implement immediately after an infringement
- Try time-outs and/or remove privileges
- When your child misbehaves, ask what they should have done instead; have them demonstrate it
- Always follow through with a consequence
Help your child eat right
Diet doesn’t cause ADHD, but food affects your child’s mental state, which affects behavior. Also, children with ADHD are notorious for eating or not eating impulsively, which can lead to ill health.
Schedule regular nutritious meals or snacks no more than three hours apart. Physically, your child needs a regular intake of healthy food; mentally, meal times provide a necessary break from activity and serve as another important routine.
Encourage exercise and sleep
Moving the body improves concentration and promotes brain growth. It also leads to better sleep, which can reduce ADHD symptoms.
Help teach social skills and rules
Children with ADHD have difficulty learning social skills and social rules. Role-playing social situations and rewarding good play behaviors and establishing consequences for bad ones can make them more at ease.
And remember that you’re not alone in this. Speak with your child’s doctors, therapists, and teachers to ensure everyone’s on the same page, and look into an organized support group to share and get advice.
To learn more about ADHD and how you can support a child who has it, give Memphis Neurology a call at either of our locations or book a consultation online. We can help.