It is very tiring and difficult to deal with children who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, particularly for single parents. It is therefore necessary to implement practical steps to make parenting these children a little easier and to help the children to self-regulate.
According to Helena Bester, ADD/ADHD can be defined as a neurochemical imbalance in certain areas of the brain. It is a hereditary disorder that should be diagnosed by a medical practitioner. The major symptoms of ADD/ADHD are inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Some characteristics of people with ADD/ADHD are the following:
- Wandering attention
- Does not complete tasks
- Shows poor organising abilities
- Loses things
- Is easily distracted
- Physically active
- Does not wait his/her turn
- Interrupts others
It is important to note that just because one displays some of these characteristics in their behaviour, does not mean that they have ADD/ADHD. It is thus important for parents not to make a self-diagnosis in this regard.
Some practical ways of dealing with these behaviours are:
- Always ensure your child has a routine to follow – most children respond well to routines and this applies particularly to children with ADD/ADHD. You can draw up a timetable chart consisting of your child’s daily activities so that he/she knows what time to do each activity. This includes even simple tasks like when to bath or brush their teeth. You can remind your child about ten minutes before the time of a particular task to prepare him/her for it and to ensure that he/she doesn’t forget to carry out the particular activity or task.
- Set clear rules and boundaries – a rules chart can be drawn up but the rules should be short and easy to understand. The rules should also focus on problem areas. You can involve your child, where necessary, when drawing up these rules. You shouldn’t expect them to follow too many rules though.
- If you feel your child is displaying hyperactivity, you may use calming sensory stimuli, for example, breathing exercises, finding a quiet space, slow rocking, or make a tent with cushions where he/she can be comfortable and quiet.
- Always reward positive behaviour – don’t criticize your child only criticize his/her action. For example, if a child breaks a vase, don’t criticize your child for doing this; rather ask him/her to explain what happened. You don’t want to assign blame which could lower your child’s self-esteem. A good idea is to keep a star chart or token board to reward good behaviour as this will encourage your child to strive to improve his/her behaviour.
- Try to avoid frustrating situations or situations that tend to increase the ADD/ADHD behaviours and don’t expose your child to sensory overload like noisy places.
- When giving instructions to children with ADD/ADHD, always ensure the instruction are clear and concise. A long instruction with many words will not be understood nor implemented. Your child may be a poor listener thus clear communication is important. Also, avoid metaphorical language, imagery, sarcasm or innuendos.
- It is essential to pay positive attention to your child and spend quality time with him/her. A parent should spend at least 20 minutes per day of “alone time” – just you and your child with no other children around and no interruptions or distractions. For example, the two of you could play a game together. Rather interact with your child than question him/her about his/her day.
Everyone understands that parents need space and strength to cope with children who don’t adhere to what is considered “normal behaviour”. A parent should understand themselves and know when they may need time alone. There will be times when you will need to call upon family or friends to assist, especially as there may be times when you need to spend quality time with another child or other children in the family. You cannot only devote your time and energy to your child that has ADD/ADHD as it can be a detriment to any other children you may have.
Parents need to learn to manage misbehaviour in a constructive manner without diminishing your child’s self-esteem. It is not easy to parent a child with ADD/ADHD but if you meet the challenges head on and learn how best to deal with these challenges, you can enjoy special times with your child, appreciate him/her, and assist him/her to achieve to the best of his/her ability in all spheres of his/her life.
Below are suggested books for further reading on this topic:
Bester, H. (2006). Facts, theories and therapies: How to cope with AD/HD: A South African guide for parents, teachers & therapist. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau.
Picton, H. (2005). Hyperactivity and ADD caring and coping. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.
Barklet, R.A. (2005). Take charge of ADHD: The complete authoritative guide for parents. Australia: Hinkler Books.