Parenting Children with ADHD: 5 Strategies to Create Calm in Your Home
Updated: Mar 7, 2019
Do you ever have those days when you feel guilty, overwhelmed, confused and just overall frustrated?
Welcome to the world of raising a child with ADHD.
Many days are spent reminding, nagging, fighting, compromising and giving in. The battles in the house get to the point where you feel like running away from it all. Do you notice that after all that interaction with your child that you don’t have much more to give? Sometimes it leaves you exhausted and feeling like you are the worst parent in the world.
By the end of the day your nights are spent feeling guilty and remorseful, hoping that sleep will come a little easier…which it usually doesn’t. You hope that the next day everyone can start fresh and brush off the despair from the days before. But somehow the feelings are still there, and the tension remains even into the next day. Everyone is on edge…everyone is waiting for the next ball to drop.
This is when you know something has to give, and some changes need to take place. You and your family cannot go on this way any longer.
Here are 5 ways in which you can bring some peace and calm to your ADHD home. The home that should be your safe place, your comfort zone…the place you come to when you need support and love.
1. Kids with ADHD thrive on structure. With all the chaos going on in their brains and their difficulties with executive functions such as emotional control, organization, impulsivity, working memory and sustained attention, they need structure in their lives. They need you to use your skills to create that for them. Have a family meeting and talk about how you all see the family functioning, what rules the family are going to follow, and what a daily plan will look like. When you collaborate with them and communicate in a respectful and calm way, they will have more buy-in on following the routine. Remember, for a structured routine to be effective, it has to maintain its consistency.
2. Kids with ADHD have difficulties with emotional control and will often react instead of respond. This can be due to the decreased amounts of dopamine in their brain. Dopamine plays a large role in not only emotions, but behavior and cognition (thinking). Helping your child with emotional control can be difficult when you are feeling drained but having a counter-reaction to your child will only escalate the battle. Instead, take a short break to help yourself remain calm. Count to 20 and breath in calm, breath out frustration. Come back to your child and help them with their breathing. Use the tree breathing technique. Discuss with your child how trees provide us with the air we breathe, and we provide them with the air they need to grow. Have them imagine their favorite tree. Then have them breath in the air the tree is providing for them and breathing out the air the tree needs from them to grow.
3. Kids with ADHD have executive skills deficits and strengths that may not match up to your own, and this can cause high conflict. For any parents out there, that have walked into your child or teenager’s room and almost dropped to the floor of a heart attack, this means you. Your wonderful strengths in organization are completely lost on your kid. This is where their weakness in this skill is in direct competition to your strength in this skill. I say pick your battles wisely as this one you could probably overlook as long as it does not become an issue of safety. Just shut the door on this one (literally…shut their door). This is one less conflict that you have to deal with and it will make your life easier.
4. Kids with ADHD can become addicted to their screens. In an article written for Attention Magazine, June 2015 Edition, “People with ADHD tend to require frequent and immediate rewards, which are needs quickly fed by screen-time activities.” Thus, it is important to limit your child’s time on screens.
One of the ways to do this is to have family meetings every week to build connection. So much of our time is spent with our faces planted in our screens, we have lost some of our connection to each other. We need to build in some time with our families with face to face interactions where nobody is allowed to have their device in hand. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to dinner with my kids and watched as families sit with each other, each one on a phone and not talking. We are all affected…but we can make changes and be aware.
5. Building on the structure and consistency that kids with ADHD need in their lives, make sure that any of the adults in the home are on the same page when it comes to parenting. If kids are getting conflicting messages from the adults it will be very difficult to maintain clear boundaries and expectations. If there is conflict among the adults in the home, then seek professional help if you cannot resolve the issues contributing to the lack of coherence. It is very common that children can become the “symptom bearers” of issues that are happening between the adults. This can include married or non-married couples, extended family members living in the home or any inconsistencies that involve overall parenting strategies.
Creating structure and balance to your home can help in reducing conflict, stress and chaos. When parents are working with their children or teens with ADHD it is very important to learn about how your child functions best and creating tools to help them with their weaknesses and at the same time validating and building on their strengths.
You can also indirectly help your child by taking care of yourself. Sometimes parents forget that the only way to help others is to help themselves first. Practice self-care daily especially when you find yourself losing control and losing sleep. Be kind and forgiving of yourself as nobody does parenting perfectly.