More random thoughts and ideas (based on my own experiences) about parenting a kid with ADHD… *
(None of this is meant to be judgemental or preachy…its stuff that works for us that I am sharing for anyone that might not have thought to give it a go. Not everything works for everyone, and everyone’s experiences are different!)
Finding a group–Parenting a kid with ADHD is stressful. They can be like 5 kids in one body…sometimes 10. Sharkbait has so much energy sometimes its painful to watch. ADHD is stressful on you, on your relationship with your spouse (particularly since there’s a good chance one of you have ADHD as well–in our family, its The Hubby). It takes its toll on your job (I’m at the point where I cringe if I see school on the line, because its almost always either Sharkbait in trouble or Sharkbait hurt), on your relationship with your other children (ADHD kids take away a lot of the attention from your non-ADHD kids, even if you know its a probability and go out of your way to minimize it)…on every aspect of your life. Going out to dinner? HA!
One thing to consider if finding a group of people like you. Look for a CHADD group near you or see if there are ADHD play therapy groups (we have one here, its run by a speech/occupational/physical therapy clinic that has therapists teaching social skills though play for kids with ADHD, autism, or other disorders). I can’t ever make the CHADD meeting here (we have something else going on those days), but they post lots of useful articles and advertise when people are hosting classes and talks about different ADHD topics. Bottom line, its okay to need an outlet, its okay to need a break, and its okay to want to have some of those with other parents that understand.
After-school meltdowns: Often when kids with ADHD come home from school…they go a little overboard. Perhaps they throw some tantrums, or maybe they become a ping pong ball bounding and bounding about, or maybe its something else. Sharkbait runs around like a chicken with his head cut off unless we let him play a computer game (or a game on the Kindle) or go outside (and we grown-ups all know that going outside isn’t always practical as soon as we get home from work). This is common, and nothing to fret about.
After working so hard to be good at school, when they come home, sometimes they can’t help it. If they are on medication, it might wearing off, which can exacerbate the problem (if you think this is what is going on, and particularly if your child has after-school activities, you might mention it to your doctor)). Either way, try to consider it a compliment. When I was mentioned it to our doctor she said this: ”Hey, it means he feels comfortable enough at home to let go Even more importantly, it shows that he knows that you love him even when he’s a little bit wild.”
Outdoor reboot: I try not to get preachy about how someone else should parent (because I surely despise it when people do it to me), but for the love of whatever you consider holy, PLEASE take your children (ADHD or not, but especially ADHD kids) outside to play. Baring medical conditions that make them unable to enjoy the outdoors, take them to the park, take them running on a nature trail, let them dig in the dirt, take them to play in the surf, teach them to fly a kite. Let them get dirty, and let nature be a full sensory experience. But please, just take your kid outside. Take them often. Better yet (depending on their age and your surroundings) let them go alone…
Give them unstructured, minimally supervised, free play time in an area of greenspace.** If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. In several studies of children with ADHD, time spend outdoors equals milder symptoms (here’s info on one). Heck, take them outside even if its *not* to play–if your child has problems concentrating on homework or reading while indoors, try letting them do it on a blanket in the back yard or at a picnic table at the park!
Looking at therapies that compliment the areas where your child has trouble. Sharkbait now goes to speech therapy–he’s “normal” in terms of speech and has a great vocabulary, but he’s in the lower range of normal because his pragmatic speech skills are lacking. His therapist is working with him on that, and its helped allay some of his frustrations in expressing himself. If your child has problems with reading, you might consider tutoring…if he/she has trouble with handwriting, maybe see about an occupational therapist for a short time…there are lots of options out there that can help with developing specific tasks or skills. Don’t think you can’t ask for help!
(I realize this is expensive for many families–the only reason we can afford this now is because we have much better insurance and I now have a career…just two years ago when our insurance wasn’t as good, it wasn’t covered and even if it had been, we couldn’t have afforded a $30 co-pay every week for him to go)
Behavioral Therapy: Studies show that the most successful treatment of ADHD involves medication (to make ADHD symptoms manageable) AND behavioral therapy (to teach strategies and skills to kids with ADHD so that they can manage tasks that the rest of us find relatively easy). The problem with this is that medication is easy to get for your child…and behavioral therapy is much less so. I live in a fairly well populated area (1.7 million in our metro-area, which is the 37th most populated in the US), and even here, we only have about a dozen behavioral therapists that deal with pediatric ADHD, and only three of them deal with kids under 6. Out of those three, one is not at all receptive to having a Pagan family as clients. Oh, but this time insurance won’t pay for it (although, it *can* later on, depending on how the request is worded).
So…the problem is that half of the most successful treatment for our family is hard to come by and hard to pay for. Needless to say, we haven’t started behavioral therapy yet…though, there are some books that talk about different strategies which are pretty good (on my short list): The Explosive Child, Cognitive Behavioral Training: A How-To Guide for Successful Behavior, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy with ADHD Children: Child, Family, and School Interventions, Think Good – Feel Good: A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Workbook for Children and Young People, and The ADHD Workbook for Kids: Helping Children Gain Self-Confidence, Social Skills, and Self-Control. (If any readers have further recommendations, feel free to offer them up!)
SLEEP! Sometimes kids with sleep disorders are misdiagnosed as having ADHD…but more often, kids with ADHD have sleep problems because of their ADHD. If you are concerned that your child has a sleep disorder, you might want to see about having a sleep study done. But when child has ADHD and has sleep problems, well…bedtime can totally suck. Sharkbait has sleep problems, and those sleep problems exacerbate his ADHD symptoms hugely. As a result, we
have to be try to be pretty strict when it comes to sleep hygiene. Bed time is consistent, and bedtime routine is consistent. An hour before bedtime, electronics are turned off and lights are turned off and/or down, etc. And yet, the best laid plans often go awry. Oh, so very often, Sharkbait ends up in bed with us. Or gets up at 3 am. Or doesn’t actually fall asleep until 11 (this happens less often now, thanks to medication–we take clonadine because melatonin cause wake-up headaches).
And, parents need to sleep too… If your ADHD child isn’t sleeping well, chances are you aren’t either (particularly if you also have ADHD).
Some other random stuff that works for us:
- When kids are yelling, don’t yell back! Whisper. Seriously, try it! It has been my experience that most kids will almost always immediately match your tone of voice. If they don’t right away, continue whispering in response, they figure it out pretty quickly. Little kids are more likely to follow along and enjoy it, but even my middle school brother will roll his eyes and modulate his voice.
- Maintain a Unified Front–Whatever you do, do it as a team and have each other’s back. Even if you don’t agree, discuss it later. You both need to send a consistent message, together.
- Give your kid a back massage! I’ve been meaning to do a post on child and infant massage forever (like since I started this blog a couple years ago) and I still haven’t gotten around to it!
- 1, 2, 3 Magic. Its a book I loathe (the tone comes off as really condescending to me), but the system works (minus the idea of a token system–at the age of my kid, its immediate rewards or bust).
- Meditate together. I’m working on a post right now on teaching kids to meditate–the expectations and methodology (particularly for ADHD kids) is NOT the same as with adults. This means that you, the parent will need greater flexibility in practice (if you already have one), you may have to adjust your own methods and expectations of meditation when meditation with your kids quite a bit.
- Find them an active hobby–take them running or biking or swimming, a kids yoga class, soccer or another sport, karate, music lessons.
*A continuance from this post…I figured a 3000 word post was a bit tl;dr! TBH, I could keep going…but for now, I’m taking a break–I have a tiny pot of tea calling my name.