Attention Deficit Disorder, both inattentive and hyperactive type, is a neurological condition and can be inherited. Symptoms can include forgetfulness, distractibility, short attention span, lack of impulse control, fidgety behavior, and more. Symptoms are noticed before the age of 7, yet are typically problematic when a child enters school. These strategies that can help minimize the symptoms of ADD/HD.
1. Get organized: Keep homework and backpack in a particular area – and have your child pack up after homework is completed. Do homework in the same area daily, and check off completion of work in a daily homework planner. Check your child’s homework and planner. Keep a visible family planner and show everyone how to enter and check events. Children should give you all papers to sign at dinnertime or homework time. Encourage accountability and responsibility.
2. Nutrition: Protein is essential for good brain activity. Breakfast should include some type of protein, such as eggs, cream cheese, or milk. Carnation Instant Breakfasts are great tasting and have additional protein for your child. Daily vitamins and Omega 3 vitamins have shown improvements for some children – fish oil tablets are one source. Protein bars may be packed in lunches or used as snacks after school.
3. Schedule: Sleep and daily routine are critical. A snack and short break (30 minutes) before homework after school is a good start to the evening. Take breaks during homework to do chores and move around a bit. Dinner before 7 and then a winding down time after dinner will help a child feel prepared for bed. If homework takes more than a couple of hours – talk with the teacher. Most children need about 9 hours of sleep.
4. Encourage independence and identifying of difficulties: Let you child know they have attentional difficulties and how they in particular display them. Encourage them to be open and talk with you about problems. I.e., often times children with ADD/HD have trouble with working memory – or remembering detailed information and applying it (math, grammar). They can also have difficulty organizing thoughts for writing. Graphic organizers and other tools can be helpful. Teach them how to identify and talk about these issues.
5. Praise and recognition for timeliness, self-control, and responsible behavior are important. Find at least 3 things to praise your child specifically for each day.
6. Set Realistic Goals: If your child does part of a task correct, let them know. Set your expectations to be realistic so they can achieve success.
7. Offer forced choices: Many times parents get in power struggles over daily and even trivial things. If your child doesn’t want to eat eggs for breakfast, then offer 2 other choices such as, Carnation Instant Breakfast or Cereal and Milk with a protein bar. They have some control and you are offering options you think are good. This works for clothing and social activities too.
8. Teach Coping Skills: ADD/HD kids often have social problems and can feel anxious or depressed. We all need coping skills from time to time. Make sure your child knows how to calm down when angry, talk about their feelings and thoughts to others, assert themselves appropriately, brush off irritations and annoyances, and show interest in and compassion for others. These are essential to good social interactions. If your child has trouble using these skills, adapting them to situations, or seems anxious or depressed much of the time, it is good to talk to a professional. They can offer lots of ideas and your child will appreciate the space to express themselves.
9. Nurture Self-Esteem: Find one activity they like and are good at. Kids with ADD/HD often hear negative comments. Build self-esteem by finding activities that your child likes and that they are good at. Foster this by having them attend classes with other kids who like the same types of things. Scouting programs, sports, art camps, church groups are all great resources.
10.You are not alone: There are resources and groups for parents and kids so that you don’t feel alone. Contact your school counselor for resources at school for your child.
• Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons Medicine Cannot Teach. By Vincent Monastra, Ph.D.
• 10 Most Common Mistakes Good Parents Make. By Kevin Steede, Ph.D.
• The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids. By L. Shapiro, Ph.D. and R, Sprague
• CHADD-mc.org : Chadd is a parenting resource for parents of kids with add/hd. Groups, speakers, events for parents
• Newideas.net : online resource for alternatives to medicine
• AAP.org : American Academy of Pediatricians offers great advice and parenting newletters on ADD/HD and other topics.