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Parenting a Child with ADHD: What Can I Do to Help My Child?

Here are a few suggestions for parenting strategies to help their kids with ADHD succeed in life.

Sara, can you please give some tips for parents to help their children with ADHD?

What I tell my patients, and a lot of experts in pediatric medicine will support this kind of information, the best thing that you can do as a parent is to try and create a supportive foundation for your child. How can you do this?

  • Come up with a routine. You should have a daily routine that everybody is on board with, everybody knows how the day works. You wake up and you go to sleep at a regular hour, you have planned activities that you know are going to be the same, so going to school and pick up at the same time.
  • Make sure that in school they've created a structure for the child so that things are going to be very regular, very calm and very organized. That can help support a child with ADHD.
  • Try to keep your home very organized as Everything should have its place. And at the end of the day you clean up and you reset your environment, so it's a calm inviting environment and it's not chaotic because that can exacerbate a child with ADHD symptoms.
  • One of the other things is keeping a family calendar, so you know ahead of time it's going to be an event and the child can prepare mentally for that kind of thing.

What about school environment?

As a prent, you can do your best carrying that over to school and having the school come up with a plan for your child. 

That also supports the child in creating an organized environment so that things are very structured, they know where they're going to sit every day, it's always at the front of the classroom or close to the front of the classroom, so they're not easily distracted by what's going on.

They know where their next classes are and they have a route to get there, and they know it is going to be the same every day. And if there's going to be a variation from the plan, they know it ahead of time so that they can prepare for that.

And in terms of ADHD effects on your life, how destructive can it be or how children or teenagers can be affected? 

ADHD in an adolescent can be pretty significant and it's really important for parents to know what a child with ADHD compared to a child without ADHD is at a more increased risk for.

  1. A child or an adolescent with ADHD does have a greater risk of injuries. For example, they are at a higher risk of a motor vehicle crash. So when they're learning to drive, having that in your mind and just taking some extra precautions with the training for driving.
  2. They have a higher risk for impairment in academic functioning. A lot of times I have kids who have lower achievement scores in general or they're failing more classes than their peers.
  3. Another thing to know for parents of teenagers or adolescents with ADHD is that they're more likely to engage in substance abuse or drug abuse.

That is something to look out for too. I mean, just having open conversations with your adolescent or your teenager to sort of head that off.

Some words to add

One more thing I do want to add, and I think this is probably what I see most commonly in my patients and that parents should be aware of, is that ADHD often goes hand-in-hand with other disorders, for example, anxiety or oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, even depression.

I have so many patients who have multiple disorders and it is really important not only thinking about treating ADHD but also trying to treat whatever else might be present, for example, anxiety.

And I think that the children that have the most success have the parents that are on board with recognizing and being open to the fact that their child might have something else going on as well, and so taking the whole picture into account.

I have so many patients who have both ADHD and anxiety. We treat their ADHD with a stimulant but we also think about an SSRI or a medication for the anxiety. If we treat both of them together then we have so much more success. Or I have so many patients who have ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder and we treat both of those, oppositional defiant disorders generally with cognitive behavioral therapy, we have the greatest success. 

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