My Child is NOT ADHD- Tips for Parenting a Child with ADHD
Guest Post by Kate May-Knapp from Crafty Kate Going Crazy
My son is a lot of things: curious, musical, funny, a great reader, in many ways a typical 6 year old, and while he may have ADHD he is NOT his ADHD! I have to remind myself of this many, many times a day. There is no doubt that parenting a child with ADHD is a challenge, it affects his day (and mine) from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed.
So where do we start? I guess at the beginning, how do you know if your child might have ADHD? If your child is under the age of 4 you really don’t. Many of the indicators of ADHD can be typical behaviors in younger children, so while you may suspect this, if you find anyone who wants to diagnose your child of having ADD or ADHD before the age of 4 grab your child and run the other way! Medicating a child for ADD or ADHD before the age of 4 simply is not appropriate.
Let me share with you just a few of the symptoms my son showed that clued me in to the potential of having ADHD. The inability to focus on activities he enjoys for more than just 5 minutes or so (while this is typical in a 2 or 3 year old most 4 year olds having a longer attention span). A louder than normal speaking voice, no matter how often I reminded him to use a softer voice it often felt like he was “yelling” everything (a hearing test showed this was not due to a hearing problem). Consistently impulsive behavior, my son would repeatedly do things that he knew was not allowed and would get him in trouble and no matter how often he was punished for his behaviors he continued to do them and he didn’t really know why. If you suspect your child may have ADD or ADHD your medical professional, school, or several websites can provide you with excellent checklists of symptoms you may see in your child.
Once you have a diagnosis it is of the utmost importance that you keep in frequent contact with his doctor, daycare provider, and your child’s teacher. It can take a LONG time to find the right medicine and dosage for your child, and the right dosage can change as your child grows. This can be an extremely frustrating process for all involved. In less than two years we are on our 2nd medicine and 4th dosage for my son and still struggling to get it “just right”.
What can you do besides medicine to help your child? A child with ADHD will do best with a consistent routine. My son has a picture and time chart to help him get ready for school in the morning. It breaks down each thing he needs to do with a time and a picture reminder. It is very detailed from waking up to brushing his teeth and putting on his shoes.
Discipline is a special area with ADHD children. It is so important to separate how you feel about the child’s behavior from how you feel about the CHILD! Provide consistent discipline and clear expectations. My son worked with a behavior therapist that provided us with some tools to help him succeed. Redirecting behavior can be used in most circumstances. When Adam does something that is inappropriate I offer him two choices that are okay for me. For example, instead of coloring on the walls with markers he can choose between sitting down and reading a story with me or playing with his trucks in his room. Particularly useful with him is reminding him how his behaviors affect others, an example of this would be “what kind of face does you drawing on the wall give me” and he makes an angry face, and then ask “what kind of face do you want me to have” and he says happy face and then chooses an activity that is more appropriate.
Okay, so that is a lot of information and I hope it’s not overwhelming. I guess my top tip is to know your child and always strive to do what is best for them. People will fight you but you have to advocate for your child. You will have those that tell it’s over diagnosed and make you feel like a bad parent, easy for them to say since they don’t live your life. Then you may run into those who deal with your child who want you to medicate your child into a stupor so they don’t have to work as hard. Know your child and remember that they are not their behavior, and find someone who has been in your shoes and really understands!