Tuesday, February 26, 2013

3 Things to Teach Your Kids Now About Their ADHD

By Diane Dempster, MHSA, CPC, ACC

Special Education Articles

What should you say to your kids about their ADHD? When should you start talking about it? The answer is simple to parenting ADHD kids: teach what they can understand, and do it now. Education and awareness are important tools. Knowledge is power, and it can help your kids be successful. There are three critical conversations that you can have at any age (with some minor adjustments for young ADDers).

1. Understand your Brain
It’s important, even at young ages, that all children understand what their brains need to do their job well. Since ADD brains work differently in some ways, it’s all the more important information for our kids to understand that:
  • Brains need food & water. We should eat healthy food and drink water on a regular basis. If your child does better on a special diet, like gluten free, increased omegas, or decreased refined sugar, make sure they know what works for them, and why.
  • Brains need down-time. Getting enough sleep is important. ADD kids often have trouble sleeping, for a variety of reasons. Helping them understand the importance of sleep can encourage them to make it a priority. Down-time during the day is also helpful. Meditation, prayer and quiet have been shown to increase calm and focus. Finding time every day to sit quietly, even if it’s only for a minute, is a great habit that will support them for a lifetime.
  • Brains need motivation & focus. The ADHD brain is different. Teach your children that their brain needs to be really interested in a task in order to get it done. Some people have a “just get it done” button in their brain, but ADD brains typically don’t. Help your kids find a motivator (like a reward after a task) for each activity that requires them to focus.
Even though the brain is a critical part of our day to day functioning, these basic needs often go unspoken. When you raise awareness and understanding, you’ll likely get kids who are more interested in doing what they need to stay healthy and on-task (even if they don’t start doing it right away!).

2. Take Responsibility
Since our kids are often behind their peers developmentally, it’s important to support them in taking on what they can, when they are ready. When my son was first diagnosed, every day on the way to school we talked about what his job was. Was his job to stay focused and pay attention? Nope! He has an ADD brain and that was not a reasonable expectation at that time. His job: when he noticed, or was told he was off task, he needed to take action – do something to try and get back on task. Every time.

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