Parenting itself is not easy. And when we add on mental health diagnoses it can be much more difficult. You may not know what to expect even if your child doesn’t have a mental health diagnosis, and if they do, you really don’t know what is typical or not.
ADHD is typically diagnosed pretty early. Once a child is in school, it can be even more apparent that there are difficulties concentrating, staying still, getting along with peers etc. However, you may notice this at home as well. And if not, you may start to notice once your child has been identified in a school system. It can be difficult for parents and children to be put on the spot and told that there is something wrong. Many children with ADHD are “othered” within their classroom and labeled as being the problem and always needing to be spoken to. The calls that teachers make home are typically behavior reports (and not the good kind). This can be stressful for parents as well because you want your child to succeed, not receive a negative label, and be successful in school.
So, what you can you do to make your child’s life positive and successful, and your own life a little less stressful?
One of the best things you can do, is make a predictable routine for you and your child. When things are predictable and organized, there is no gray area to question what is expected. Be clear about your expectations from the beginning and what the consequences (positive or negative) are. The more predictable, the more likely, that your child will start to learn things and practice them on autopilot. They can be as simple as coming home every day and hanging up a book-bag in the same place, and opening up the same folder for work, and sitting at the same spot at the table to work.
Children with ADHD are often “in trouble” because they are distracted, interrupting, or forgetting things. While it’s important to correct behavior and encourage the behavior you want, we also don’t want to get stuck always correcting a child. Children with ADHD are more likely to have low self esteem from constantly being told they are doing something wrong. For every correction you give a child, tell them one or two things they did right. Catch your child doing what you would expect them to do. You don’t need to be overjoyed for a simple act of completing a task, but validate and recognize it because you know that was more difficult compared to other children. Give your child things to be proud of in themselves. It will encourage them to keep trying and know that they aren’t the problem, they just have more difficulties in certain areas than others.
If you’re looking for more tips and tricks, getting your child, and even yourself into individual or family counseling can help with knowing where to start. Every child is unique and different. Some children may not have the hyperactive piece of ADHD and only require certain skills to be in place. It’s important for you and your child to be on the same page and know what the expectations are. The more wishy washy and unclear, the more likely you and your child will feel frustrated.