“Look, a squirrel!” “Timmy, sit still!”
Do these sound familiar to you? One of these quotes is an inner thought, which may be outwardly expressed; depending on the age, the speaker may even chase after said squirrel. The second is the parent or authoritative figure with the demand to the child that they sit still. Meanwhile, the child may be fidgeting or distracted by something going on.
While these quotes are more on the stereotypical side and may not reflect real scenarios, they may mirror real scenarios if they seem familiar to you in a way. Not being able to sit still, easily distracted, easily bored, different perception of time—these and many other signs which vary in each child are attributed to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
If you are new to the world of ADHD, we can help. You can start understanding this world better by reading further on our tips to best support your child with ADHD right away.
What is it Like Living with ADHD?
ADHD does not always mean your child is hyperactive 24/7. Instead it may mean they’re hyper focused, such as on a specific project or interest, like being a huge fan of trains and not only collecting everything relating to them, but also talking about trains almost non-stop when they choose to speak.
When it comes to school, there is pressure to do better. Some ADHD kids excel and are top of the class thanks to their hyperfocusing, while others may struggle. However, both varieties of ADHD can contribute to a child experiencing burnout, both in the one who’s excelling from the pressure to stay at the top, and in the one who’s struggling from the pressure to simply survive the day.
On a scale of 1-10, most children with ADHD feel their emotions at an 11, meaning they can feel things very strongly, but not necessarily have the exact words for them.
ADHD may look like laziness, a child lying on the couch after a parent has asked them to complete a task. However, it’s best for parents to not assume it is laziness, and to make sure they don’t attach this label to themselves either.
The Best Ways to Start Your Support (And What Not to Do)
- The best way to first understand ADHD in children is to recognize and acknowledge their executive dysfunction, which disrupts the ability to manage one’s own thoughts, emotions, and actions. Understanding the difficulties of this can help you support your child as they try to better plan ahead, organize, develop emotional regulation, realize their control impulses, and complete tasks.
- Living with ADHD also means speaking openly about the diagnosis with your child. Books that address ADHD directly such as Percy Jackson and Captain Underpants are great suggestions to read with them.
- Does your child kick, scream, threaten, or cry loudly as an emotional response? This is what’s called a meltdown situation, and it’s a common reaction from children with both autism and ADHD.
- When faced with a meltdown situation, understand that the kicking, threatening, and loudness may mean your child wants your attention. They are acting out anger, but are not angry at you. Rather, they want to be heard, and they want their feelings and experiences to be validated for you to notice them and see their struggles.
- If the situation turns into a yelling match or battle of some sort, it can trigger what’s called Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). This means your child will experience severe emotional pain due to feeling rejected or because of a failure. RSD is very commonly seen in children with neurotypical conditions such as dyslexia, PTSD, autism, and ADHD.
- Instead of caving in and joining the yelling match, try to shift your focus from your own feelings to that of your child’s. Give your child time to process their emotions, reflect on how their body feels, and make sure to help label the emotions. Here are some good examples:
“I see you look upset; you are clenching your fists and your face is flushed. Your body is not happy right now.”
“I hear you. You are feeling angry, this is normal, and everyone feels this way sometimes.”
“I love you even when you are struggling with these big feelings. I am with you and will listen if you want to tell me what is hurting you inside.”
- Be their calm narrator. You can offer a hug, a beverage, a walk, a drive, or something else that may help provide comfort to your child.
Positive and Healthy Parental Self-Care
As parents, you are the foundation for your child’s physical and emotional health. Thus, you can control many factors that will positively influence the symptoms of your child’s neurotypical behaviours.
- Positive Attitude. Your child can become calm, focused, and better connected with you when you are calm and collected. This is especially true during the meltdowns described above.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Things; be willing to Make Compromises. If your child made the effort and tried hard to complete a task, noticing there’s one thing left unfinished is not a big deal. Children with ADHD will have impossible expectations if they have parents who are perfectionists, because they will always be unhappy.
- Believe in them. Trust they will adapt to a learning style that works for them. With time, patience, and love, they will change, mature, and succeed. List everything positive, valuable, and unique about your child in writing. Reaffirm this trust daily during one of your regular routines, i.e. brushing your teeth or making coffee or tea.
- Self-Care. You are your child’s role model and source of strength, therefore caring for yourself is important too. If you don’t care for your needs, you risk losing sight of the support and structure you created for your child with ADHD, especially when you become overtired or find you’ve run out of patience.
- Take a Break. Your friends, family, and neighbours can give you a much needed and well deserved break. Never feel guilty about being apart from your child with ADHD. Discuss amongst these people with honesty how to best care for your child’s needs.
- Be Healthy, as Best You Can. Yes, this means eating right, exercising, and reducing stress, whether via a relaxing bubble bath or morning meditation. If you do catch a cold or the flu bug going around, acknowledge you are sick and take care of yourself. It might sound cliche, however staying healthy for us is what helps us stay healthy for our children and families.
- Ask for Help. You never have to go about this alone. Speak with your child’s doctor, therapist, and teachers. There are organized support groups for parents of children with ADHD, and many online forums and blogs with advice and tips as well as a safe place to vent your feelings and share your experiences.
At Hopewoods, helping parents to support their children is one of several specialties we offer. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding our child and youth counselling services. Let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help you, your child, and your family today.