If your child has recently been screened and professionals have explained that he or she has ADHD, it is an emotional day. No parent wants a child to struggle or have to travel a different journey. An ADHD or ADD diagnosis is overwhelming for the very reason that you may not know much about the disorder, and you’re uncomfortable with the unknown. It’s a stranger to your family. All valid thoughts.
I’ve been there.
As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate. That in itself can be overwhelming considering you don’t know much about it or where to begin. For the rest of us who have already traveled this path, those feelings are familiar. Start reading any material you can get your hands on (including this blog, where I share all of our experiences and important information to make life easy for you!) and soon you will feel more confident. For now, take a deep breath and use this cheat sheet to get started. Here are 4 important things you can do when your child is first diagnosed with ADHD to give them a jump start.
♥ Your Attitude
The doctor who diagnosed my son did so in a very matter of fact manner, handing me a book and saying
‘Your son has ADHD and something called Tourette Syndrome, read this and go on about your life.’ ~My son’s doctor
I was offended at the time because it seemed a little blunt, a little insensitive. Years later, I’m grateful because the doctor nailed it: A mom or dad’s attitude about a child’s difference will shape how a child views himself as they age. It took several years, but I now know why my son’s doctor downplayed his struggles. He has done well in school, is extremely confident and has a great future ahead of him. The road doesn’t end at a diagnosis. We often say it’s just a small part of him, similar to someone with allergies or a fear of the dark. We all have something. Find the good.
♥ Medication Decision: Yay or Nay?
Medicating your child is a personal choice. Studies show that stimulants can provide great benefits to a child (and adult!) with ADHD. Yet, those who find success with ADHD medications aren’t always willing to endure the side effects, which can vary between a loss of appetite, insomnia, queasy stomachs, etc. Others choose to go a different route, such as altering a child’s diet. All personal decisions, and it becomes a process of elimination until you find what works. Remember: What works now may not work for your child two years from now. It evolves as they age.
♥ Consider Behavioral Therapy
Many doctors who treat ADHD say the treatment is a two-part process: Medication and behavioral therapy. There are several different forms of behavioral therapy, but the basic goal is to change the child’s physical and social environments, which helps the child improve behavior. A child can attend therapy as their sole source of treatment as well.
‘Parents must meet the child where they are, not expect a child with ADHD to fit into a certain mold.’ ~Advice given to me by our doctor
If you have ever taken your kids for ice cream to reward their good grades at school, you are already doing some form of behavioral therapy. It is all about encouraging good behavior and discouraging what isn’t appropriate, while adapting to his needs and being clear about expectations.
♥ Learn to Parent Differently
That old-school theory of ‘Sit still and be quiet or you’re grounded because I said so‘ won’t work. (Is that effective for any kid?) Parenting a child with ADHD requires a bit of rewiring on the parents part, learning how to break directions into small tasks and remaining calm in situations when a child’s emotions escalate. (This takes some practice!) Children need a parent to remain calm when they can’t be. It took my husband and I some time to get on the same page here. One thing I’ve learned is that parenting when ADHD is involved is not black and white. It’s not diet or regular soda, it’s not that easy. You must also consider other factors where your child is concerned, such as emotions, sensory, etc. (You know, the root beer, the lemon-lime.) Here’s an example:
Situation #1 Telling your daughter to sit still during an hour-long church service or she doesn’t go to a friend’s birthday party is setting her up to fail before she even gets to the pew. Sitting still is a major hurdle for a child with ADHD. It’s like telling someone not to blink. She has to move, fidget, get up, sit back down, etc. A better way to handle this would be Situation #2.
Situation #2 Take along some quiet sensory fidget toys that will keep her from getting up and help her focus. Squeezing a stress ball or rubbing a piece of velcro around her wrist helps redirect the inattention and extra energy. More importantly, your daughter isn’t punished for something beyond her control and you can praise the good behavior.
Working to help the child succeed will benefit everyone.
Those are 4 things to do when you first learn about ADHD. Other concerns will be added to your plate, such as working with the school (IEP or 504 plan?) to see whether your child’s struggles are affecting them in the classroom. My best advice? Find a support system, whether it is your spouse or a friend who is invested in your child’s future.
You’ve got this!
Just beginning to suspect that ADHD might be in your family? Read HERE for the symptoms I had missed in the beginning.