I've gotten asked for advice many times recently about how to help kids with ADHD. Whew. It's not easy but man is it a HUGE blessing. But really, is parenting every easy? All kids come with their own unique challenges and blessings and our job is to help them become the best version of them. And to ask for LOTS of forgiveness in the process.
There is so much misinformation out there about ADHD and SO much shame. Way too much shame!
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurological disorder that impacts the parts of the brain that help us plan, focus on, and execute tasks. There are 3 subtypes of ADHD and it can present very differently based on age, gender, personality and secondary concerns. The cause is unknown but it's highly genetic and linked to levels of dopamine in the brain.
What are the Symptoms?
Lack of focus
Poor time management
Weak impulse control
Not everyone has ALL of these symptoms and the severity can vary widely. Many with ADHD also have co-existing concerns. The book Driven to Distraction does a great job of explaining the many ways ADHD manifests itself in both kids and adults. I highly recommend it if you are new to learning about ADHD!
There is no cure for ADHD though many of the symptoms can be managed through a comprehensive treatment plan and effective strategies. Medicine, Counseling, Organization Strategies, Diet, Sleep, Supplements and Exercise can all help ADHDers to thrive.
Here is where you knowing your kids comes in to play! There is no one and done solution. My son, my husband and I all take pharmaceutical medication for ADHD. Medication is not THE answer for us. It's part of a multi-faceted approach.
My Tips for Parents
1. Get over your own insecurity and shame over the diagnosis and the medicine. This is not about you. It's no one else's business what decisions you make for your children.
2. Embrace it! The ADHD brain is an amazing thing. I believe that it's highly creative and solves problems others can't. Most of the challenges are only relevant because so much of the world is structured around neurotypical reactions and behaviors. ADHD isn't something to be ashamed about! I choose to talk about my son's beautiful, BRILLIANT brain. The way he sees and experiences the world is an absolute gift to us all.
3. Give yourself and your kiddo grace! You won't figure this out right away. They won't figure this out right away. You are in this together. Be patient with yourself and with them as you navigate how to help them thrive.
4. Help them uncover their Creative Genius! The more opportunities they have to shine and brainstorm and do things that they find exciting and interesting, the better! Encourage them to beat to their own drum and pursue the things that bring them joy.
5. Get Help! Behavioral Analysts and Occupational Therapists are amazing resources as are psychiatrists and counselors. Talk to your doctor and school to see what resources are available to you.
6. Create Space for talking and moving! It's often easier for kids with ADHD to think when they are moving their hands or their feet. Get them out in nature moving and make a point to just show them so much LOVE and encouragement. Create times where you will intentionally not be correcting them. This is BIG.
7. PROTECT THEM. Not everyone will get their energy! Heck, they will probably drive you CRAZY some days. But protect them from the eye rolls and the impatient expectations of others. You might need to create some boundaries with certain friends or family members. You might also need to educate some on what ADHD is and how it looks. Trust your gut! Your kiddo will thank you for it big time.
But mostly, BE EXCITED! ADHD is not something to be feared. It's not a curse. It's an amazing wiring of the brain that can lead to so much good in the world.
The best thing I personally can do to help my son thrive is to thrive myself and to pursue a life where I'm using my gifts and talents to my fullest potential.