Parenting Children and Teens with ADHD

Being a parent is sometimes difficult. Being the parent of a child with ADHD is often Difficult with a capital “D.” Perhaps the parenting techniques and tricks you use successfully with other children just don’t seem to get the same results. Maybe the behaviour and challenges you see are so overwhelming you don’t even know what to try or where to begin. So often, the parenting strategies and approaches that we normally use aren’t fitting and our usual bag of parenting tools just don’t work.

If you have experienced any of these challenges parenting your child or teen with ADHD, you are not alone:

  • trouble getting your child’s attention
  • trouble getting your child to listen to you long enough to hear all of what you say
  • children forgetting instructions or rules
  • children getting distracted and not finishing tasks
  • having to ask your child to do something 1,000 times
  • dealing with your child’s impulsive behaviour and decisions
  • struggles and fights during transitions (e.g., morning routine, bedtime)
  • children having BIG emotions or meltdowns
  • children being easily frustrated or angry
  • children experiencing low self-esteem and feeling they are always “bad”

Having ADHD is not an excuse for your child to get away with not following rules, not being respectful, or not trying their best. It simply means that, as a family, you need to work in different ways to help your child be successful. It is often very frustrating to be a parent when there is ADHD in the family. But, there are many evidence-based strategies that families can use to help tailor parenting to the particular needs of children with ADHD.

Separating Your Child from the ADHD

Trying to think of ADHD as something separate from your child can be really helpful. Viewing ADHD as an annoying “thing” that gets in your child’s way can help everyone in the family be less frustrated and blaming.

Managing Your Expectations

One of the most important things to remember is that because of the way your child’s brain works, they will sometimes be unable to act in the same way and achieve things the same way as other kids their age. This doesn’t mean they aren’t trying or that you are failing as a parent! It just means that everyone’s expectations may need to change to help lessen disappointment and frustration.

Make Sure You Have the Floor

It is important to make sure you have your child’s attention before you give them information. For children with ADHD, simply calling their name may not be enough to get them to pay attention to you. Things to try:

  • getting down to their level physically
  • using physical touch (e.g., touch arm, pat shoulder)
  • get eye contact
  • ask them to recap what you just said

Getting the Message to Stick

Children with ADHD often have particular difficulty remembering all of the information you give them and remembering it long enough act on it. To help increase the chances of the information “sticking” and tasks getting completed, try:

  • repetition is key – you may need to be a broken record!
  • break down tasks into smaller parts
  • give one-step directions

Managing Ants in the Pants

Parenting children who experience hyperactivity can often be challenging, especially during times when it is important for them to stay in one place, like dinner, school, etc. Things to try:

  • using a fidget toy to occupy their hands/energy
  • give them two chairs and they can move back and forth as needed
  • schedule in physical activity!

Dealing with Feelings

Just as ADHD changes the way a child’s brain is able to control attention and behaviour, ADHD changes the way the brain is able to regulate emotions. This means that children with ADHD often have really BIG feelings, are frustrated easily, and have trouble calming down. The great news is that emotion regulation is a skill that can be learned! Scroll back through this blog for a great article all about emotion regulation.

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