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Family Portrait

Top 12 Parent Tips

Live life in integrity with who you really are.

What parents need to know about their child with ADHD

1. "Ferrari Brain, Bicycle Brakes" – Dr Ed Hallowell.

Think of your child’s brain like a car. If your child has ADHD, it is more like a Ferrari. In order for the Ferrari (ie your child's brain) to run it needs fuel, and that fuel is anything that is authentically interesting/stimulating to your child.

2. Boredom is to Your Child what Kryptonite is to Superman.

It is actually painful for your child to do something that is not authentically interesting to her. Your child’s brain is like a car remember, and it needs fuel (which is interest) to run. Chances are if you ask your child to clean her room she will either ignore you or protest very strongly.

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Resist the urge to shout! Help her by making the prospect more stimulating: Make it a 5-minute challenge. Turn it into a game! Put her favourite music on. Promise her an immediate reward of her choosing after the task is done. The same applies to homework.Instead of starting with the more "boring" task first, start with something that your child finds authentically interesting so that her brain has some momentum (and is not going from a stand still!)

3. Engage as many senses as possible.

If your child is not interested in a task, different sensory modalities can help her focus on that task. Your child could try moving about, making noise, listening to music, chewing gum, having white noise in the background such as the tv, or even having another person present (a "body double"). Your child may also benefit from a bit of rough and tumble, a big cuddle, or being turned upside down. Anything that will provide the stimulation she needs to get started… Experiment!

4. Ask, don't tell.

Don't tell your child what to do. As soon as you tell your child "do this!" you have taken the idea away from her. She eliminates it as a possibility. It may appear as oppositional behaviour, but it is a fight/flight reaction due to her feeling emotions more intensely. Enlist your child in the decision making so that she owns it (or its her own idea!) Create some visual charts/routineswith a theme of her choosing. If you have an Alexa, you may want to set regular reminders and alarms – this is particularly helpful if you are a parent with ADHD yourself.

5. Give Positive Descriptive Praise and don't criticise your child for what she cannot do.

Your child desperately wants to please you… Try positive reinforcement and descriptive praise and see the difference in her attitude and behaviours. The better your relationship with your child, the better response you will receive, after all, there is nothing more she wants to do than please you. Don’t forget that!!

6. Your child is not her ADHD behaviours.

It is your child's ADHD brain that is responsible for her more challenging behaviours, not "her".  The challenging behaviours are not who she is. Make sure this is clear when addressing these behaviours with her.

7. Give your child a sense of structure so that she feels the press of time.

Create and consistently follow routines. Your child will get a better sense of time and will do more and be more efficient as people with ADHD love to be busy and get things done, and quickly ("ADHDers are sprinters, not marathon runners!"). This will also help with your child’s fear of losing interest. It will also mean you are not telling your child what to do all the time (which will not work anyway!)

8. Help your child "be present in the present with all her presence" ie to get out of her head and back into her body.

This can be achieved through exercise, mindfulness or being in nature - this reduces "mind chatter" and rumination (its easier and more stimulating for the brain to turn to negative thoughts).

9. Help Your Child with Transitions

Transitions are very hard for ADHDers. Your child will even find it difficult to make a transition to something that she will like as there is a space in between the activities where she could be bored (remember - Kryptonite to Superman). Enlist your child in plans and ask her how the transition can be made easier for her.

10. Special Time

Give your child some special time each day and occasionally take her out for a “special day”, particularly if she has siblings. Make sure you do the same for siblings! Special time will strengthen your relationship and in turn, your child will try even harder to overcome her challenging ADHD behaviours for you.

11. Manage your own ADHD

If you suspect you may have ADHD, you might also want to be assessed and receive treatment so that your own ADHD is sufficiently managed to enable you to parent more easily. If you are a parent with ADHD, managing your child’s ADHD is going to be quite a challenge. Managing your child’s ADHD aside, you may find it difficult to be present with your child, follow through with what you have said, engage in the activities your child wants you to participate in (particularly if you are not authentically interested in them) and keep your cool when your child’s challenging behaviours present themselves. As they say, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before putting one on your child!

12. Accept your child's unique brain wiring and embrace her "superpowers".  

Celebrate your child's successes and help her remember these. Empower her to self-advocate. Focus on Your Child's strengths, what's working and what she loves. "Where focus flows, energy goes…"

Focus on the positive and see the difference…

(Bonus Tip) 13 . Don’t forget to have fun!

If your child has ADHD, chances are she is very entertaining and can be a lot of fun to be around. When things get a bit tense, say or do something outrageous/out of character and divert your child’s attention from the negative to the positive. This won’t always work but it's worth a try. Stay upbeat as much as possible and create plenty of opportunities for the family to have fun together such as family days out, eating out, movies, cooking, crafts, holidays and new experiences.

Create positive memories for your child – the more she has of these, the more likely that she will be able to overcome her ADHD challenges and harness her ADHD strengths to thrive.


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