Does your child have problems to concentre? Or is he or she unable to be calm for a single second?
During my practice at the University I worked in an association that helped children with ADHD and their parents.
Besides re-educating the children, and by that I mean teaching them how to plan, organize tasks, create routines, etc. I also gave lectures and helped parents at the school.
In those conferences I remember that parents were very worried because they didn’t know what to do when the disorder was diagnosed.
In today’s post, I’ll talk about this disorder and give some tips on how to help your child with ADHD.
But above all, I want you to know right now, that one of the things that will help your child is for you, as a father or mother, to take it easy and calmly.
Because in everything you do, if you are at peace, you’ll be able to transmit that calmness, and he or she will also be able to relax.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurobiological disorder, which can cause the following behaviors in children:
Here you’ll find the link to a website where you will find the DSM-V criteria for ADHD, ie, the criteria professionals follow to diagnose a child with ADHD.
Attention deficit disorder with a predominance of attention deficit
Attention deficit disorder with a predominance of hyperactivity-impulsivity
Attention deficit disorder combined type
I’ll give you two versions of the causes.
A more “scientific” and a more “informal” one because the first one has too many technical terms which, if you’re not familiar with them, maybe a bit hard to follow.
The decrease in Dopamine (DA) and, in a minor quantity of Norepinephrine (NE) in certain areas of the brain:
- Pre-frontal cortex
- Parietal cortex
- Basal ganglia
- DA transporters from the pre-synaptic neuron are “too effective”
- Less sensitive DA or NE receptors in the post-synaptic neuron
Imagine you’re at a concert.
The orchestra director marks the beginning, and musicians follow his instructions.
Each musician plays when it’s his or her turn, and the director directs everyone through a dance between his arm and his stick.
Imagine that the front part of our brain (pre-frontal cortex) is the orchestra director.
In children with ADHD, this director is on vacation.
Therefore, the musicians do what they can.
Sometimes they begin playing a piece and don’t finish it.
Others, because there is no one to lead them, they lose interest in what they’re doing.
They also become nervous because they want to play the entire repertoire but can’t stop moving…
Understanding your child with ADHD
First of all, you need to understand what’s happening to your child.
Children with ADHD have problems and difficulties with:
- Expressing themselves correctly
- Controlling their behavior
- Staying focused on an activity for a long time
And they need more time to complete a school assignment.
This leads to:
- Low self-esteem
- Anger with themselves during difficult activities
Because it’s hard to keep up with the other children.
32 tips to help your child with ADHD
To improve self-esteem:
1. Focus on your child’s positive aspects: What things does he or she do well?
2. Reinforce the child’s positive aspects: tell them what they do positively, in terms of their personality, what he/she is good at, etc.
3. Recognize their effort socially: when you’re with family or friends, praise them openly for something he/she did well.
4. Give him/her easy tasks, where he or she can feel useful (for example, by helping set the table)
5. Teach them to discover what he or she is good at
6. Change how you judge his personality: instead of saying “You’re a mess,” it’s better to say “your room is messy”
7. Recognize and accept his or her feelings
To increase desirable behaviors
8. Identify what he/she likes, and give it to them after performing the desired behavior.
9. Praise him or her or give them a prize immediately after performing the desired behavior (it’s very important to do it right after, so the child can associate his/her behavior with the praise or reward)
10. Positive conditioning: The child has to do something he/she doesn’t like to get one thing that he/she does, “If you want to go out to play, you have to do your homework first”
To reduce undesirable behaviors:
11. Extinction: withdraw your attention when he/she misbehaves or is aggressive
12. “Time out” technique: immediately after performing an undesirable behavior, take your son/daughter to a boring place (hall, corridor, etc.) and leave him/her there so the child can think about his/her behavior (1 minute/age). You may need to guide them on what they need to think about, because sometimes, they can’t do it on their own.
13. Contingency Contract: you have to agree on desired behaviors and the consequences of not doing them (this is used more with adolescents or adults). The important thing is to actually do it.
To facilitate understanding of what to do:
14. When explaining the rules, look into their eyes and speak in simple and short sentences.
15. Make sure he/she understands the instructions of what they have to do. You can ask the child to repeat them back to you.
16. Divide or separate the complicated things into various steps.
17. You can use a point system with small children: it’s a reward system where children earn points (or chips) when they perform certain behaviors, and lose them (response cost), if they do others.
To teach him to be organized
18. Use lists and schedules, to facilitate understanding.
19. Keep routines, so he/she can anticipate what’s going to happen.
20. Use alarms and clocks, so the child can plan his/her time better.
21. Try to establish a place for everything: for example, have a games box, a color box, etc. and label each box.
22. Teach him/her to use a planner.
To motivate learning:
23. Value his/her effort over his/her scores.
24. Set up a study habit for your child: set and follow an actual daily study plan, in a given place and time.
25. Stimulate his/her natural abilities: enroll him/her in what he/she likes or is good at.
26. Talk to teachers about your child’s characteristics, to make sure they understand what ADHD is.
To encourage social skills
27. Collaborate with your child’s teacher, to educate him/her parallelly.
28. Observe your child when he/she plays with other children, to understand what he/she does well and what could be improved.
29. Design a signal system, which you can use under different social situations: for example, touching their ear to let them know to stop moving their feet. This can help your child improve their social development, without causing embarrassment.
30. Work on only one behavior or social skill at a time.
31. Get your child involved in group activities, always considering his/her interests.
32. Be a role model for your child, remember that children are sponges and they not only follow verbal communication, but also non-verbal. So whatever you say, do or feel, your child will imitate you.
As you can realize, all these tips are also valid for children who do not have ADHD.
All children need to foster their social skills, they need for you to teach them to plan and organize, to motive them, praise them, teach them tasks that are difficult for them step by step, etc.
Children are children.
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