Parenting a Child with Attention Deficit Disorder

by Jennifer Shakeel

child bouncing off the wallsI have yet to find another job in the world that is more challenging then that or parenting. You are constantly faced with the questions of whether or not you are doing a good job as a parent, teaching your child the difference between right and wrong in hopes that they grow up to be productive, respectful people. This is compounded when you are raising a child that has ADHD.

I am not going to try to lecture from a medical standpoint on what to do as a parent for your child with ADHD. I am not a therapist of any sort and the medical experience that I do have is removed from what I am about to talk to you about. I am a parent and my child has ADD/ADHD. Believe me when I tell you I understand the struggle you are having right now and the guilt that you carry with you. I would bet that much like me, you were told by teachers or saw the warning signs and refused to admit that there was anything “wrong” with your child. Let me tell, there isn’t anything wrong with your child, your child with ADHD requires different things then a child that does not have ADHD.

I remember the day that I had to come to grips with the fact that my child did need help. After many slips home from school for detentions due to disruptive behavior in class and his ultimate disgust for reading because he struggled with it so much my child came home and threw him self on his bedroom floor and cried because he said he couldn’t do it. He tried to behave in school, he tried really hard he just couldn’t do it. In tears I accepted the fact that my child needed help and I didn’t know what to do. There, that night we began our journey on finding a way to cope with and deal with living with ADHD.

The suggestions that I am giving you is by no means and end all be all list, this is what has worked for us. I think a lot of what works will vary depending on whether or not your child is on medication to help and how well that medication works. Fortunately the medication that we are using is working well. But here are a few suggestions to help you and your child that is living with ADHD.

Provide structure for your child. Making sure that there is a predictable routine going on at home helps the child with ADHD stay focused. For example for us, we come home form school, do homework, go to practice, come home and have a family dinner, showers and hour of family time and then it is bedtime. This is our routine Monday through Friday. If there is going to be a change to that routine, we talk about it in the morning while getting ready for school. I believe that there is a lot of anxiety associated with ADHD and the structure helps reduce some of that anxiety. My child knows what is expected of him and the time frame we have.

I have also found that encouragement for staying on task has done wonders as well as setting up a reward system for different things. For us reading was a major battle, so we set up a reward chart for so many books read our child gets to pick a present. We set it up in advance, that for every five books he got to name what the prize was so he has something to shoot for.
Be specific and give instructions in bits and pieces other wise it is to much information to give a child with ADHD/ADD at one time to focus on. So when you are trying to get your child to clean their room, instead of saying “Go clean your room,” you will need to say, “Ok, go put away all of your cars… or dolls,” and go from there until the room is clean.

We try to not punish for negative behavior as much as we reward for positive behavior. We have even gone to the teachers and asked them to do the same. With our child the negative reaction causes him to completely shut down. However pointing out the positive of what he can do and do well boosts his self esteem and makes him want to continue that behavior and “please” people.

Parenting is not an easy task, and parenting a child with ADHD/ADD requires us as parents to rethink the way we parent because our child has different needs. It can be a struggle and there are very difficult times but there are also many amazing times to celebrate and look forward to. You just need to find the patience within yourself and you will make it through.

Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse. As a mother of two incredible children, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting. One of my children has ADD, our journey of learning to come to terms with the diagnosis and figuring out what works best for us has been a challenge and a joy. Our son was diagnosed about two and half years ago, and we have had our ups and downs, joys and sorrows. If I can just offer you one day of hope or one idea that may work to help you and your family then I know that my purpose has been fulfilled. 

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November 13, 2007

JHS @ 2:36 am #

I eventually had to medicate both of my kids for ADD (without hyperactivity). There was no getting around it, but neither have experienced any side effects. The 16 year old tried to wean himself off the med. this past summer, but could not do it. He said, "Mom, I need my medicine" and went to the cupboard & took his pill. I was happy that he recognized the need on his own and is taking responsibility for taking his medicine on his own.

Thanks for contributing this post to the Carnival of Family Life! I appreciate your support and participation.

The November 19, 2007, Carnival will be hosted at An Island Life by Kailani. Be sure to submit your entry by Saturday, November 17, 2007, at midnight (Pacific time). Details available at Colloquium.

November 19, 2007

Thanks for sharing your experience. I appreciate your emphasis on the need for appropriate supports (rather than that something is wrong with a child). I think that's a positive and productive way to engage the world.

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