How to Talk to Your Child About ADHD
As a parent, it can be heart-breaking to watch your child struggle due to ADHD. So, it is good to know how to talk to your child about ADHD.
When talking with your child about ADHD, individualize what you say to meet the needs of your particular child. Keep their age in mind. As your child grows and changes, the challenges they face as a result of the condition change as well.
Some children do not ask about ADHD. If this is the case, you should still provide appropriate information for your child. If you have other children in your home, educate them about ADHD as well.
Learning about ADHD together is not a one-time event. Talking with your child may be as simple as reminding them that you love them unconditionally or as complex as reading a book about ADHD together and discussing it.
Tips for Talking to Your Child About ADHD
- Be honest. Don’t deny that your child has ADHD. They were aware of it long before you were. Speak openly. This will free your child to speak openly as well.
- Some children are embarrassed and feel ashamed that they are “different.” Acknowledge that everyone is different.
- Remind your child that we all learn in different ways. Don’t just talk about different learning styles; ask your child how they learn best. Provide environments and strategies that nurture your child’s ability to learn. Many children who have ADHD learn best when using a hands-on approach. Be sure that your child has opportunities to learn by whatever approach works best for them.
- Encourage your child be their own advocate. The best way to teach this skill is by modeling advocacy for your child.
- Reassure your child that they are in good company. Many brilliant, famous people have or had ADHD.
- Remind them that we all have various degrees of distractibility. It is not something “weird.” There are bound to be many other children who have ADHD who your child knows. Consider talking with your child’s teacher or principal. Good schools provide education to students about a wide array of disabilities. This should be part of every community’s anti-bullying activities.
- Let your child know how much you appreciate them. ADHD is just one aspect of your child. It does not define the wonderful individual your child is.
- While getting good grades is important, that goal must be put into perspective. Capitalize on your child’s strengths. Remind your child that although they may not have the highest grades in school, you appreciate their other abilities and qualities. At the same time, be sure that your child knows that you expect them to do their best. Learning is important. Do not allow them to use ADHD as an excuse. If they say they cannot learn something because of their ADHD, talk with your child and their teachers to resolve the issue. An individualized educational plan can be put into place at school that will improve their likelihood of success.
- Concentrate on specific concerns your child has. Short talks are more effective than long discussions. Provide enough information to address your child’s current issue. Stay focused on the one issue. Be prepared to address the same topic many times.
- Acknowledge that you do not fully comprehend the challenges your child faces. Ask them to help you to understand.
Talking With Your Child About Friends
Children who have ADHD often struggle with impulse control. They may act out inappropriately or say the first thing that comes to mind and blurt out words that would be better left unsaid. This, coupled with poor self-esteem, can make having friends difficult. Many children who have ADHD suffer from loneliness as a result. They may or may not want to talk to you about their feelings of isolation.
Listen carefully to your child and pay attention to non-verbal clues your child may show when broaching this sensitive topic. Talk about and demonstrate simple techniques for managing behaviors. Easy techniques, such as encouraging your child to take three deep breaths before speaking when they get agitated, can help.
Simply talking is not enough. Provide opportunities for your child to socialize with others in settings where they are more likely to be successful. Some children do well playing non-competitive sports. Others may excel in art or music. Provide your child with opportunities to spend time with other children outside of the school setting. Ask them what they are interested in and help them to excel in that area.
Teach Your Child How to Relax
Talk to your child about stressors and relaxation techniques, as some children with ADHD experience anger. These techniques may include mediation, prayer, breathing techniques, or progressive muscle relaxation exercises. Talking with your child is not simply telling them what to do and how to behave — it is sharing experiences together. Practicing relaxation methods together will help both you and your child cope with ADHD and life better.
Nurture Your Child's Self-Esteem
Your words can help your child to develop a strong core. Loving honesty is essential. For example, avoid telling your child they are good in math if they are not. Instead, acknowledge their struggle, but let them know you are confident that in time they will grasp the concepts.
Remind them that we all learn at a different rates, and emphasize what they are good at. Be realistic, but encourage your child to do well in whatever they are involved in. Keep in mind that while some children who suffer from ADHD are cut out to be doctors, the world needs dishwashers too.
Have Fun Together
It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life. As a parent, you may be spending countless hours advocating for your child at school or worrying about the pros and cons of medications. You may be exhausted as a result, and high-energy children can wear nerves pretty thin.
When talking with your child, do not get so caught up in the serious aspects of ADHD and life that you forget to simply have fun together. Ask your child about interesting or funny things that happen at school. Share your dreams and goals together. Many children who have ADHD have remarkable senses of humor. Consider reading a joke book together.
Talking with your child is not just instructing, role modeling and reminding them for the thousandth time to pick up their dirty clothes. It is a sharing of spirit, laughter, grins and tears are all part of life. Don’t get stuck worrying about knowing the “right" words to say. Show your child how much you love and appreciate them.
Pay Attention to Your Parental Instincts
Parenting a child who has ADHD can be challenging. However it can help you to find your own strengths and develop compassion.
Even though it may not feel like it at times, having ADHD is harder than parenting a child who has it. Be humble, loving and compassionate.
Remember the greater part of talking with your child is listening to your child. Reassure them that you will meet the challenges together and that you will always be there.
Remember, communication is not simply talking; it is your entire relationship.