By Michelle Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
When my son was diagnosed with ADHD at 13, those words were a difficult pill to swallow. Yet, as I reflected on what the diagnosis truly meant, I rejoiced that we finally had an answer. But a new question ran through my mind:
Now that I know what the problem is, how can I help him cope with this?
If you have a child with ADHD, it might seem initially difficult to create coping strategies. Yet, with just a bit of creativity and determination, you can effectively help your child cope with ADHD. Here are ten ways to help you do that:
1. Devise an organizational strategy
My son is notorious for being disorganized. When I ask to see his note from school, I often get one half ripped (or crumpled) sheet of paper with notes scribbled in various areas on the page with no detailed explanation.
Several times a year, I go over each of his binders. I tape the sheets that may have been ripped as he pulls it in and out of his locker, then we recall what the teacher was teaching before and after, so we can put them in proper order.
Each night, I also review his notes from that day. He must review for fifteen minutes, then hand me his notes and I ask him questions about what he has reviewed. Since he lacks patience to make note cards or any other study tactic, reviewing fifteen minutes helps him remember what he learned in school that day—and is a great time of bonding between us.
2. Set established sleep patterns
Because their brains have difficulty shutting off during the day, you may discover your child is a “night owl” or wants to stay up past normal sleep curfews. However, ADHD kids need proper rest to help give them the energy to make the most out of each day. A healthy sleep pattern will help increase the amount of success they achieve during the day.
As a parent, it is important to establish rules for every aspect of your children’s life, including their sleeping patterns. Setting a schedule and helping them adhere to it will help tremendously.
Implementing a nighttime routine can also help. Have the child start winding down at least an hour before bedtime. Turn off screens and set a time when screens must be off. Encourage them to shower or bathe at night to relax. Read to them or sing songs. The key is consistency.
3. Keep it simple
Simplicity is everything to ADHD children. Many don’t like change, routine is what makes them feel secure. If you have to change something, keep it as simple as possible. Go over the change as many times as your children need to handle it. Talk to them about the change then ask then to repeat the change so they fully understand all that is involved.
Over complicated issues prove daunting for kids with this issue. Keep directions simple, breaking them down into one (or at most two) tasks at a time. Make sure they understand what is expected of them. Well intentioned children can get easily flustered if they complete a task, only to find they did it incorrectly due to poor understanding of instructions.
4. Promote a healthy diet
Diet can make or break a child’s success. Chemicals and dyes eaten in large amounts can seriously affect the brain, which in turn affects ADHD. Promote clean eating whenever possible. Instead of that hot dog, opt for vegetables and chicken. Substitute processed food for fruits and veggies when possible. Select water over juice.
If this becomes an area of tension for you and your child, don’t keep that type of food in the house. It may be cheaper, but you’ll be paying a higher price in fighting with your kids over a trivial matter.
5. Draw boundaries
Although it may be viewed as strict, we must draw boundaries and help set limits even when our children can’t. For example, if a child has trouble shutting off video games, ask the child to set a timer for a certain amount of time. Start off with a half an hour and increase from there. If they are responsible and respectful of the time constraints, increase the time from there.
You can even enlist your child’s help in establishing what both of you feel is adequate time to play video games during the day. In our home, it is two hours. My son can use the two hours in whatever way he chooses, but once two hours is up, video game time was done until the next day.
6. Develop self-control
Children with ADHD often lack self-control. ADHD kids who have high impulsivity tendencies have a hard time with controlling themselves. As parents, we need to help them develop self-control and restrain themselves even when their brains tell them to keep going.
Create a reward system when they successfully restrain themselves from indulging in activities where they need to exercise restraint. This will bode well for them as adults as they seek to balance work, family and leisure time.
Kids have difficulty writing down tasks and making to-do lists, especially at school. It is important that I follow-up with him after school to make sure he understands all of his assignments, remind him he has homework and draw clear boundaries as well as prioritize homework over video games and other fun activities.
After he gets home from school, I ask my son to take out his assignment book. I go through each assignment, making sure he knows what he needs to do, access notes he took during class, etc. Although I can’t be with him at school, I can follow-up with him at home, which is a big help to him after he has left the classroom.
8. Break down tasks
Due to his ADHD, my son’s recall is terrible. If I give him three tasks, then ask him to repeat them, he can’t tell me what the third (and sometimes even the second) task is. I must break down tasks in sizeable chunks so he can manage them effectively. If he has a book report due, we work together creating self-imposed deadlines as to which task is due on what day. He will read the books on Monday, research on Tuesday and have a rough draft written by Thursday or Friday before the assignment is due. It is important to help them start early, otherwise they will be stuck at the kitchen table the night before making up for lost time.
This not only helps them meet deadlines but also helps them to break down overwhelming tasks with smaller deadlines. This skill will carry with them as they grow into adults, where the overwhelming weight of work, bills and family will become easily too much to handle. By showing them they have the ability to break things down, they can turn into any problem into a manageable one with proper solutions.
9. Encourage patience
My son hates to wait. In fact, the thought of being bored terrifies him. Therefore, I need to create ways for him to engage his mind without being bored. For example, he is highly creative. When he is bored at school and lacks proper note taking skills, I encourage him to take notes in a different way. He can draw the notes, meaning he can draw a picture in the margins of the paper to help him comprehend what he is learning, or he can draw in lieu of taking notes. When he gets home, I ask him questions about his drawings and see if he has truly learned the concepts. More times than not, he recalls much more when he has interacted with it in a creative way than when he simply hears the notes or sees them and writes them down.
This is a great strategy to adopt in any classroom whether a child struggles with ADHD or not. Kids that interact by doing not only comprehend more material, but they can recall it days after they received the information. Teachers can utilize this at any age. Just because a child is encouraged to color and draw in kindergarten doesn’t mean they can’t carry that strategy with them as they go throughout the school years.
10. Promote exercise
The H in ADHD stands for hyperactivity. This means kids have trouble sitting still within the traditional classroom setting for six or more hours. Although every kid needs to exercise every day for optimal health, ADHD kids need even more. Establish an exercise regimen from when kids are young. Encourage family walks a few times a week and push yourself (and perhaps a spouse as well) to go out and play.
Toss a football, help work on your kids’ baseball swing, anything that encourages bonding between parent and child. Kids are young for only a little while. Exercising promotes healthy and happy memories for you to remember when the kids are older, and your kids will remember those times as a happy childhood, who will want to continue exercising as an adult.
Having a child with ADHD can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. No matter whether you implement the above suggestions or not, the best thing you can do is handle your child’s diagnosis with grace. Having ADHD is not easy and can cause your child to have self-esteem issues.
The best way to arm yourself against that is to reiterate God’s love for them. The more you do this, the better our child can view their diagnosis not as a problem—but as an opportunity to see themselves as uniquely created by God. By doing this, you are not just teaching coping skills—you are equipping them success for life, both professionally and spiritually.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers' workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
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