When someone in your home, particularly one of your children, is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, it’s never easy for anyone. Parents are confused as to why, siblings feel like more attention is being given to the other child, and friends know something is up but unsure how to address it. Any disorder requires changes to the entire family’s life and routine – changes that can be overwhelming to begin with, but, with proper education, patience, support and time, families do manage to get “back to normal” even though “normal” has been somewhat skewed. At first, it will feel that “normal” will never be a possibility, but with time, a normal family environment can be had. Below are some tips that can help.
Educate Yourself and the Entire Family
- Learn as much as you can about ADHD and have weekly educational sessions with the rest of the family. Be open to all questions and provide as much information, links, and handouts, as possible. Make some of the sessions fun so they’re not too formal (during a picnic, going for ice cream, etc.).
- Try to understand why your child behaves the way he does. Be aware that he may not be misbehaving on purpose.
- Keep in mind that there is no single treatment to address all the aspects of ADHD. ADHD is multi-faceted and the coping strategies should be as well. Medication is not the only solution – there are several ways of addressing it and all other avenues should be looked at before any medication is considered.
- Consider parent training. Contact your local Child & Youth Mental Health Services team and they will direct you in the right direction.
Work Together as a Family
- Encourage each other as ADHD will affect the entire family, including any member of the family who are a huge part of the child’s life such as grand parents or aunts and uncles. There will be trying times so be as accepting as possible and find patience wherever possible.
- Discuss coping strategies together. Each family member may have different ideas – it is better to have too many ideas than not enough.
- Seek support from your spouse or partner, friends, and family.
- Also seek advice from other families who have a child with ADHD. If they are open to discussing it, take as much guidance as possible – they may have some strategies that you did not even think of.
- Be consistent. Don’t disagree with your spouse / partner about discipline in front of your child. It will make the child feel uncomfortable and as if they are at fault for all the disagreements and arguments.
- It is important that both parents should share the responsibilities of discipline as much as possible.
- Make time to talk with your spouse or partner either daily or weekly. It is crucial that you remain on the same page as far as discipline is considered any strategies that are working or not working for either of you.
Setting Rules and Routines
- Set up a structure and routine for your child. A healthy routine (including proper nutrition, sports, homework, bedtime, etc.) is the most important tool you will have!
- Involve your child in problem solving and planning. They will be the spokesperson for what works and what doesn’t work. But, if there is something that you find works really well that the child does not like, do not remove it. Instead, use it as a tactic for the child to gain rewards.
- Promote your child’s self esteem. Self esteem is the most important gift (as well as love) that you will ever give!
Take Time to Relax
Remember, you need to be rested and in good shape in order to help your child so don’t forget to look after yourself.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Make time for your relationship with your spouse or partner and with your friends and family.
- Go out and have fun every so often!
Some coping strategies are more useful than others. Some may be useful under certain circumstances and harmful in other conditions. You may recognize some of the following coping strategies as things that you already do.
Problem-Focused Coping Strategies:
These types of coping strategies attempt to change the external source of the stress. Examples include:
- reading and learning more about ADHD, child development and parenting
- working to get help for your child at school
- seeking advice from other parents in a similar situation
- seeking help from friends, family, health professionals, or the child’s school
- planning and taking action to change your child’s environment and figure out ways to help them
- putting other activities aside to focus on the problem at hand
Emotion-Focused Coping Strategies:
These types of coping strategies attempt to reduce the negative feelings associated with the stress. Examples include:
- taking a break
- venting frustrations
- reappraising a situation to accept it or see it in a more positive light (“It could be worse,” “my child isn’t doing this on purpose”)
- seeking support or sympathy from friends