It was during the Fall when my eldest daughter Sydney was in Grade 2 when I sat in a classroom, across from her teacher hearing my fears spoken out loud. Sydney was a bright child whose laughter was larger than life but somehow I knew that there was something… something different about her and at times my mind would run away with fearful thoughts about her future.
Sydney couldn’t follow more than one instruction at a time, became overwhelmed and angry at odd times and had become more and more anxious over the previous year. As her Mom I’d been keeping a mental tally and was considering seeing our GP when her teacher confirmed the behaviours were happening at school as well.
We took Syd to a pediatrician who performed some assessments and in the end confirmed that Sydney had ADHD and my husband and I set off to do some learning. Parenting a child with ADHD can be a challenge to say the least! Their brains are functionally different and we’ve had to modify our lives to suit what will work for Sydney.
Gone are the days of us setting rules or routines willy-nilly simply because they are the most streamlined. These days we first have to consider Sydney’s capability and then set up the structure which will foster the opportunity for her to succeed.
To say that life with a child with ADHD can be a struggle is an understatement. It is the most challenging thing I do daily…and hands-down the most rewarding. We’ve had 5 years now to work on this with Sydney and there are some things which have worked and, of course, some that haven’t.
Tips for Parenting a Child with ADHD
Create Structure: Having a daily routine which your child knows intimately takes away any insecure feelings and afford them a sense of security. We have even written out the daily schedule so that Sydney knows what is happening up to a week in advance. When we are doing something new such as taking a trip, we go through each activity to ensure she is aware of what to expect.
Establish Quiet Zones or Times: Children with ADHD are often over-stimulated and unable to focus. By creating quiet zones it allows them a chance to be less distracted. When Sydney is doing homework the area is off-limits to other family members, TV and electronics are turned off so that she is more likely to stay focused. Sydney’s bedroom is also a quiet zone, where she can go when she is feeling out of sorts. She knows this is HER space and feels safe now that she’s used to removing herself there when and if she needs it.
Sleep: Sleep is the foundation for these children and at times this can become an issue. Getting a good night’s sleep is like GOLD! Foster this by establishing bedtime routines, reduce sugar and caffeine in their diets and lower screen time in the evenings in order to help them calm their minds. When our household is still awake and Sydney wants to go to bed, she has a white-noises machine to help her block out the sounds of the family.
Get Support: We really needed help with this, it’s not something which has an end in sight and by reaching out to local support networks we began to understand how to support Sydney while parenting her at the same time. We have a counsellor whom Sydney sees, we attend educational classes and we have fantastic friends who will be caretakers when we just need a break to reconnect.
Be Your Child’s Champion: If your child has ADHD, they really don’t have an understanding of the stress you may be under but they will feel your disapproval if you allow them. In the moments when your child is displaying ADHD-related challenges and you’re in the thick of it all…start an inner dialog where you’re replaying the beautiful moments you’ve shared with this child. Remind yourself that this IS your loving, sweet, funny child and that life WILL be okay.
Don’t allow the ADHD-related problems to become a character issue in your mind. These children don’t usually have consistent behaviours; they may do very well with a change in routine one day and yet the next it may crush them. By remaining calm in the face of an outburst, your child is more likely to calm down sooner.
The biggest tip I can give you is to seek out the moments when you can praise your child’s positive behaviours. Seek out the instances when your child has put forth effort and let them know you’re proud of them! Be their champion and keep reminding them how truly fantastic they are!
I am Julie, a wife and mother who also happens to be a recovering alcoholic. I live in Southern Ontario with my fantastic husband, two daughters and our dogs who are beloved members of our family. Find me at www.soberjulie.com.