Parenting a Child with an Attention Deficit Disorder
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Parenting a child with an attention deficit disorder (ADD) presents significant challenges. A child with this disorder may exhibit many of the following behaviors at home:
- difficulty concentrating
- problems following directions
- having a high activity level
- acting impulsively
- being impatient
- becoming frustrated easily
- being disorganized
Parents may find the following strategies helpful in dealing with a child who exhibits some of these problems: •
- State your expectations clearly. Children with attention deficit disorder benefit from clarity, certainty and consistency. Convey your expectations clearly and concisely but do not overwhelm your child with rules. When he engages in these behaviors, give him praise.
- Help your child retain your directions. To help him remember what you tell him, make sure you have good eye contact, state the directions in a clear and concise manner and give only one or two instructions at a time. Avoid giving directions when there are competing distractions such as the television. To check his understanding, you might have him repeat the directions to you.
- Break down tasks into smaller, more doable pieces. Children with ADD are quick to become overwhelmed with a task. You may find that your child is better able to do an activity if it is broken up into more manageable parts. For example, if he is frustrated by a math assignment with many problems, you might have him do a few problems at a time after which he takes a break.
- Prepare your child for changes. Children with ADD do well with routine and predictability and often have difficulty adjusting to change or making transitions. If his routine at home is going to change or he is doing a new activity, prepare him in advance.
- Allow your child an outlet for his excess energy. You may find that your ADD child is often restless and has problems sitting still for long periods. If so, let him take breaks from an activity where he is seated for a long while and have him move around.
- Provide organizational help to your child. You may want to help structure your child by, for example, posting a list of items he needs to bring to school each morning, helping to unclutter his desk at home and having him keep an assignment.
- Help your child relate to other children. Children with ADD often have social difficulties because of their impulsive behavior. If this is the case with your child, talk with him calmly, helping him understand the behaviors that caused him difficulty with peers and suggesting alternative ways of acting. Make sure to compliment him when you see him demonstrating good social skills.
Many children with attention deficit disorder have been prescribed medication, particularly Ritalin, to help increase their attention span and decrease their activity level. While there is considerable controversy about whether too many schoolchildren are being given medication for attentional problems, there is little question that medication has had positive effects with many although not all children in terms of increasing on-task behavior and decreasing hyperactivity. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that medication does not teach. It only makes children more available for learning by increasing their ability to focus.