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Friday, October 14, 2016

Your ADHD child

One active, adorable little boy! 
A good friend asked me for advice on how to help her ADHD 7 year old boy.  Having been through the experience (and lived to tell about it!), I thought it would be a good article for Momcoach.  Here goes…

My dear friend,
I know how you’ve struggled with Chris over the years and how frustrated you are with his inability to focus, learn and obey.  He is a sweet child and it’s obvious he wants to learn how to control his body and mind.  His inability to sit still and do his schoolwork or follow directions isn’t his fault…nor is it your fault.  It’s just part of who he is.  So, no blaming!

Let’s start with his physical environment-
Children with attention deficit disorders need two things…order and routine.  An orderly home brings a feeling of peace and comfort to every member of the family but especially for your overly active child.   He doesn’t need additional stimulation from his environment!  As a mother, that is something you can do that will make a big difference in his behavior.  If necessary, declutter and simplify your home and especially his room and belongings.  Make it easier for him to succeed.  

And routines…I’m not talking about strict, military-type rules and regulations.  Routines are just a framework for your day.  I always kept mine simple yet flexible in case something came up that needed to be addressed.  All kids feel more comfortable knowing what to expect each day…like they know they’ll get up sometime around 7 am (or whatever), dress and have breakfast around 8 am, clean their room and be ready for schoolwork by 9 am.   Then, schoolwork from 9-11 am (for homeschoolers), a walk or exercise of some sort followed by lunch at noon.  And so on…
Which reminds me – The one thing that kept me sane was a quiet time for the kids after lunch.  In order to be a good mom, I had to take care of me.  By structuring the day so the kids had quiet time (or nap time for the little ones) for about 2 hours in the middle of the day, it made it possible for me to either take a nap also (if it had been a rough night) or work on a project that I enjoyed doing or read or do whatever I wanted.  I will have to take care of yourself!

So you have a clean, orderly house and have reasonable routines.  Already you have made a difference in your child’s life.  He knows what to expect each day and he isn’t overstimulated by chaos or clutter.  What next? 

Learn how to communicate effectively with him.  Because he has trouble focusing, he probably doesn’t respond to directions very well.  You can make it easier for him.  First, make eye contact and get his attention.  Make sure his focus is on you.  Don’t repeat yourself over and over again or yell.  He will just learn how to tune you out.  Remember, he has a legitimate disorder that makes it difficult to process and focus.  You have to treat him in a way that will result in success.  Have I said that before?  That’s because it’s so important – you want him to succeed and you have to learn how to help him achieve that success.  It’s as much about you as it is about him.  It might be inconvenient for you to stop what you’re doing to help him follow a direction but it is part of developing good communication skills and also learning work habits.  An example – say you want Chris to clean up his room.  Do you say, “Go clean your room.”?  Probably not.  How about saying, “Chris, I want you to pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper now.”  And then, “Chris, put your toys in their bins.”  For a child who reads, sometimes writing out a list is helpful to remind him what is expected in cleaning his room.  You could give him a card that lists the 5 things you expect for his room to be clean.  Now he doesn’t have to remember everything but can check off finished chores on his list.  You get the idea.

Now, about schoolwork…as much as possible, cut out distractions! If that means making him a special, quiet corner of the family room for him to work, do it!  If that means no background TV noises or music, that’s ok.  Expect him to have a short attention span.  It’s amazing how much can be learned in a short period of time.  Don’t worry about him not being able to sit for half hour at a time.  Many adults have a hard time sitting still too!  Break up the learning into manageable bits.  Try to find ways to make learning “real”.   Ask for his help counting cans in the pantry.  Have him help you make a grocery list.  Have him read signs when you’re driving.  Learning should be a way of life, not a series of workbooks and texts.  Be positive!  Praise his efforts!   

I am probably overwhelming you right now.  One more thing…consistency.   That’s right, you need to be consistent in the way you treat Chris and your other children.  Chris needs to know what to expect from you.  He is trying to figure out his world and you can help him by consistently following through on the things you tell him, and the things you do.  

To sum this all up…
Order and routine.
Effective communication.
Eliminate distractions.

While you cannot control Chris or any other child, you have complete control over you.  The way you act, the things you do and say, the things you accept and the things you will not tolerate, all help your little guy make sense of his world.  He needs your love, your time and your patience.  Maybe I should have devoted a paragraph on patience.  Change doesn’t happen overnight.  Sometimes it takes only days but some things might take years but however long it takes, it’s worth it.  Trust me, I know.  :)