I don’t have to tell you that raising a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) can tax a parent, body and soul. It takes optimism, perseverance, patience, and lots of energy to keep up the good work.
Here are the strategies I used to stay energetic and in good spirits while raising two wonderful, but demanding, children.
1. Take care of yourself. You give your all to help your child, but don’t forget about taking care of yourself. You need stamina to run the marathon of raising kids with ADHD!
Regular exercise and good nutrition play a vital role. Research shows that exercise reduces anxiety and the symptoms of depression about as effectively as Zoloft. Maintaining a healthy diet will supply you with the energy to face whatever comes your way. Basic rules for healthy eating include having a small amount of protein (lean meat, soy, legumes) with each meal (even breakfast), consuming fruits and vegetables, and taking a fish-oil supplement. Avoid processed foods and sugars, which can cause energy levels to spike and then drop precipitously.
2. Accentuate the positive. Instead of complaining about the mess your son just made in the kitchen, inventing a new type of dog biscuit, compliment him on his creativity and suggest that he use the biscuits to teach doggie some tricks. While the mess he made isn’t fun to clean up (insist that he help), maybe he’ll wind up opening a dog biscuit stand and raising money for his favorite cause, or organizing a neighborhood dog show with his friends. Another plus? Complimenting your child allows him to take occasional criticisms in stride.
3. Look for your child’s mirror traits. ADHD is often considered a negative – to some people, it’s about what your child isn’t doing or can’t do. “Your daughter is too unfocused or too disorganized,” they say. But many negative ADHD characteristics can be seen in a positive light. Do this and you’ll find it easier to remain upbeat. Instead of thinking “she’s unfocused,” think “she has the ability to take in information from different sources.” Don’t see her as “disorganized” but as “creative.”
4. Stay connected with friends. We are so involved in raising children when they are young that it is easy to become disconnected from friends and other parents. Yet connection provides support, feedback, new ideas, and humor when you’re feeling down.
5. Go with the flow. We are more single-minded about things than our ADHD children are. We want our child to complete that model airplane or to finish playing the board game before moving on to something else. The ADHD brain, though, moves a million miles an hour. It’s OK for your child to bounce from one project to another-part of being a kid is sampling what life has to offer. While your ADHD child should be able to focus on a single project, don’t insist that he always do it. As an added bonus, join in the fun sometimes. It is a great way to strengthen your relationship with him.
6. Make a plan. Do you need quiet time? Schedule it! Do you feel disconnected? Join a local support group or make plans to go out to dinner with friends every week. Feel you need to know more about ADHD treatments? Schedule some time on the Internet or at your local library.
It’s unrealistic to think that we will be optimistic every day. But with these ideas, you can maintain a positive attitude that will rub off on your child.