Parenting a Child with ADHD – It will take a Village

by Jennifer Shakeel

a hyperactive childWhether you just found out that your child has ADD or this is something that you have been dealing with for a while, it’s important that you know you don’t have to go through this on your own. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t go through this alone. If you what you want is to see your child succeed you and your “village” need to be involved in the proper care and guidance of your ADD child.

Your “village” includes the child’s entire family. This is first and foremost. Talk with the immediate family and the extended family. These are the people that see your child the most. Don’t label your child, and don’t let other’s in the family label him or her. They aren’t “special” and they aren’t “problem children”. Those are two labels that drive me up the wall. When people ask, “Did he/she take their meds today,” don’t answer that question. Respond with “Everyone has days that are more difficult then others.” The family needs to focus more on the resolutions then the problem and they need to work together as a unit. Here are a few guidelines for the family:

  1. Improve the organization within the home. Order is will help decrease distractions.
  2. Set a regular schedule. This will help your child know when to expect certain things such as “quiet time,” breakfast, lunch and dinner, bedtime, wake up time, practice.
  3. When you or your family talks with your child, make sure that you are making eye contact with the child.
  4. If your child has a list of chores to do, give them one chore at a time and let them complete it before giving them the next. After all, it is a problem with attention we are talking about. Sending them to their room to clean it won’t work. They will go in and start to pick up something and then they start playing with it.

The next group in the “village” are teachers and care givers. If your child has to go day care it is important that you talk with the care giver. Let them know what is going on and how they can help. The same holds true with the teachers. We stay in constant contact with our son’s teachers. We exchange phone numbers, emails and we meet on a regular basis throughout the school year.

The reason for this is that it has to be a mutual goal to help your child succeed. Make sure that the teachers are making an effort to not set your child next to disruptive children. Request that they are placed in the front of the class room, with their back to the windows. The goal here is to decrease distractions. Even on medication, if the medication is properly dosed distraction is still possible. You don’t want to over medicate your child and rob them of life enjoyment. The goal of any medication is to help them focus, to decrease distraction in their mind enough that they are able to focus.

Finally, your child’s medical team. This includes the family doctor or pediatrician and psychologists if they are working with one. I am going to give you the best advice you could ever hear about your child’s doctor and/or psychologist. If they do not take the time to talk to you and your child, if all they want to do is had you a script and leave the room without sufficiently answering your questions and addressing your child’s concern FIND another doctor! The first time you hear, “Oh it’s just the medication he/she is on,” get up and leave the room and never go back.

It doesn’t matter if you have seen this doctor for years… of if they have seen your other children their entire life. For your child with ADD this is not the right medical provider for them. The doctor that is prescribing medication to help your child cope with ADD needs to listen to your concerns and your child. They should be interested in how they are doing in school, if they are in sports, what their behavior is like at home, how are they on the medication, how are they when the medication wears off.

It takes a village to help a child with ADD succeed. They need the support of everyone around them and it is up to you to make sure they have that support. Make sure that everyone from sibling, grandparents, teachers, care givers and medical providers are all on the same page.

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 ADHD, 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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October 31, 2008

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