Editor’s note: Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD, an organization that educates and supports parents raising kids with ADD/ADHD by providing weekly coaching tips and strategies. She is also the co-author of the e-book “ ADHD in Reality: Tips For Parents From Parents.”
Raising kids with ADD/ADHD can be stressful, to say the least. You try everything the “experts” tell you, but sometimes it still feels like you’re running on a treadmill. A coach-approach to parenting can take the pressure off.
Parents who learn to “coach” their kids with ADD/ADHD get out of survival mode and help their kids become more independent and successful.
There are six key strategic areas for parents to focus on when managing ADD/ADHD and literally hundreds of coaching skills to help parents help their kids. Here’s a specific tip for each strategy that will get you off that treadmill and help you rediscover the joy of parenting:
Educate yourself and your child about ADHD: This is a critical first step. Learn whatever you can and help your child identify the ways ADHD causes challenges at home and at school. Use this to empower your child to understand that he/she is not stupid and there is a reason for his/her challenges. If you’re not sure if something is caused by the ADD/ADHD or not, it probably has something to do with it!
Activate the brain: Since ADD/ADHD is based in the brain, it’s a logical step for improvement. Whether your child is taking medication or not, try exercise and/or protein before school — or before homework time — to improve focus and get better results.
Manage the behavior: People with ADD/ADHD often avoid structure, even though it’s what they need the most. Perhaps the most important structure is to help your child figure out his/her motivators. Identify good reasons that make sense to your child, not you, and you’ll see improved results.
Parent positively: Kids with ADD/ADHD make mistakes … a lot. They are constantly dropping, losing, breaking or forgetting things, and we correct them from sun up to sun down, without even realizing it. They need you to “catch ‘em being good." Let them know when they are successful, even if you think they “should” be doing it. For them, small victories mean a lot.
Establish appropriate expectations: On average, kids with ADD/ADHD are at least three years behind their peers in behavioral development. Keep that in mind when you set expectations for chores and following directions, especially in the evenings when they are tired. Yes, that may mean letting things slide. It helps to think of them as very mature 10-year-olds, instead of immature teenagers.
Take care of yourself : This may seem out of place, but it’s so important! Kids with ADD/ADHD need to learn to take care of themselves for future success more than their typical peers. When parents model self-care, their kids begin to learn to eat well, exercise, etc. On the other hand, when parents do not take care of themselves, they send a message to their kids that it’s not important.
How you approach your child’s ADD/ADHD makes a big difference. Two final pieces of advice can have more of an impact than anything else: Believe in your kids and laugh a lot.
Kids with ADD/ADHD tend to be bright, creative, innovative and interesting. They respond well to positive encouragement and humor. When parents use coaching skills to manage the challenges and humor to downplay the mistakes, the results are positive for the entire family.