Jennifer Hector, MA, LMFT
Having success in the school year requires specific strategies for supporting kids with ADHD. In order for these specific parenting strategies to work, a meta-framework for how to respond to your child needs to be put in place.
Listed below are three key elements that make up this larger frame of reference for successful parental intervention as described by Elaine Taylor-Klaus and Diane Dempster in their book, “Parenting ADHD Now.”
* SUPPORT THE BRAIN
Create opportunities for kids to move their bodies! Exercise increases neurotransmitter activity, releasing endorphins and their stress fighting, positive mood generating effects. Movement and exercise also helps release built up psychic energy. Sensory activities that engage multiple senses are key to self-regulation. Be aware of nutrition, encourage sleep and hydration, increase mindful moments and creative endeavors, and consider medication for brain activation and regulation.
TIP: Try water play, sand play, baking, blowing bubbles, climbing on trees, walking barefoot outside, walking at night, running through sprinklers, spinning , rolling on balls or in the grass, make and play with play dough or slime, etc.
* POSITIVE PARENTING
This is easy to say, yet difficult to do. Parenting kids with ADHD often presents many opportunities for experiencing high frustration. So how do you remain supportive and effective?
A strength-based approach is where it’s at. The strengths and successes demonstrated by your child are an important doorway to accessing effective, positive parent-child connection and outcomes. When you bring your attention to the daily successes, no matter how small and the natural strengths they highlight, kids internalize the positive feedback, increasing self-esteem and deepening parental connection, resilience and opportunities for learning.
TIP: When mistakes or emotional volatility occur check in to see how you can down shift your response, entering with calm and rather than highlight the mistake, reduce the spot light with connection and observation and redirect. An increase in positive parent interactions increases opportunities for the child to be open to parent involvement in challenging moments. Taylor-Klaus and Dempster suggest parents ask themselves, “What does my kid need right now to feel loved and supported.
* Align Expectations
When our ideas about how our kids should behave interfere with reality, it’s a recipe for conflict. Shift from shoulds to awareness and acceptance. Appropriate expectations match the developmental capacity of the child. Children with ADHD come with a brain that has a need for more assistance in regulating and processing; these are the facts. So given this neural landscape adjusting your perspective to meet your child where they are right now is necessary for success- theirs and yours.
TIP: Begin by seeing them through the lens of their current abilities in order to set them up for success. Realistic goals come from keeping in mind their disability, knowing you’re building specific skills and appropriately challenging their edges in ways that generate independence, resilience and success.
With these three tips you will be able to better support your child as they go back to school and during the school year.