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4 min read

How can parents help a child with ADHD?

Parent helping child with ADHD study.

Globally, as many as 5% of all children have ADHD, while another 5% are believed to show similar significant difficulties with hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. This second 5% of children typically exhibit symptoms that are just under the threshold to warrant diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean those children wouldn’t benefit from the appropriate support and accommodations. 

Growing up with ADHD can be hard, and it’s important that children receive all the support they need in order to develop and progress through their lives. While ADHD support in the classroom has its role to play, there are things parents can do to assist and encourage their children at home as well.


How can parents support children with ADHD to learn?


As with all children, those who have ADHD aren’t all the same. Different things will work best for different people, so it’s important to try lots of tips and techniques to see which strategy is right for your child. It’s also important to give strategies time to take effect. In most cases, you might not see the effects of a given routine, for example, until that routine has been in place for weeks or perhaps even months. 

While it can be frustrating to feel as though the technique isn’t working, it’s worth allowing plenty of time for your child to adjust to the change and for the results to make themselves clear. Children may not welcome changes to their daily routine immediately, but it might be that with time, the new routine becomes a positive, helpful part of their day. On the flip side, it’s also important to remember that not every technique will work out. A regular process of reflection and evaluation can help you to identify the routines that just aren’t right for your child.

With that said, let’s take a look at a few strategies recommended by the NHS and a range of children’s mental health charities that may be helpful if your child has ADHD.


Be clear when setting tasks


This first tip is one of the most crucial when it comes to parenting a child who has ADHD. Children with ADHD can sometimes have difficulties in remembering complicated instructions and staying focused while completing tasks. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Make your requests as simple as possible - for example, instead of asking your child to tidy away their toys, it can be helpful to break down the instructions into shorter chunks of clear information. For example, specify which toys to tidy away, which room they need to go to, and where within that room they belong.
  • Use a visual reminder - having a whiteboard or something similar where tasks or chores are listed can give your child something to refer back to if they’re unsure of what they’re supposed to be doing.
  • Include a time component - being issued a task without clues as to when it should be done could prompt anxiety, particularly if your child was doing something else when you made the request. If something must be done straight away, say that. If not, clarify when it should be done by, such as before dinner or before bedtime. 
  • Consider a forewarning - if your child is immersed in a task, they may find it difficult to switch to a new activity immediately. Forewarning them - for example, ‘it will be tidying up time soon’ - can help them to prepare for the change of task, potentially making the transition smoother.
  • Be clear about rewards - praise is well-received by any child, but it can be helpful to be absolutely clear about what they did right. Be specific when rewarding your child to help them build healthy habits and routines. For example, rather than simply saying well done after they tidy up, praise them for doing so quickly, or neatly, or thoroughly.


Liaise with your child’s school


Just as ADHD doesn’t only affect your child during school hours, it also isn’t restricted to the time they’re at home. There should be a partnership between yourself and your child’s teachers with the aim of giving them the very best care and support possible, and that can’t happen if there is not effective parent-teacher communication.

If you discover a way of doing things at home that really benefits your child, it’s a good idea to bring it up with their teachers, as it may be helpful during the school day as well. And vice versa, if you stumble upon a technique that doesn’t work for your child, save their teachers the trouble of trying it separately. You can also bring up the topic during conversations with your child’s teachers to see if they have any insights that might help you at home.

As well as these more ad hoc discussions, it’s also important to make sure that both you and the school are on the same page when it comes to things such as medications. As a parent or guardian, you’ll need to give consent to allow members of staff to administer medications at school.

If the school uses an electronic health record software to manage medical conditions, you can receive notifications when staff log that the medication has been administered. This can help you to keep track of your child’s health and give you peace of mind. If your child needs additional medication beyond an agreed regular dosage, you can also approve this remotely via the electronic health record.


Be patient


Patience is a virtue, and it’s also a skill that can be improved over time. While it can be frustrating when things don’t go to plan, being able to keep a level head and remain calm with your child can help to prevent the situation from escalating. Remember, all behaviour has a source. Dealing with the root cause is a far more effective way of handling undesirable behaviour than changing nothing. Plus, if the cause is removed, the chances of the behaviour repeating are slimmer.


Can a straight A student have ADHD?


One thing many parents worry about is how ADHD can affect their child’s academic success. The truth is, ADHD doesn’t guarantee that your child will perform well in school, but it also doesn’t mean that they won’t either. Like any other child, the success of a student with ADHD can be affected by lots of different factors. 

They may do very well or they may need additional guidance, but the important thing is to make sure that they are happy. Children who feel a lot of pressure to perform well in school can often be alienated from learning if they struggle to reach targets, which can in turn impact their performance. Instead, celebrate your child’s strengths, encourage them to learn in whatever way works best for them and support them when they need it. 

The best way a parent can help a child with ADHD is to be there for them. And if you’re concerned about your child’s academic performance, speaking with the school to identify hiccups in the learning process and discuss potential solutions is a great way to support them. The chances are, your child isn’t the first with ADHD to have been taught at their school, so taking advantage of the experience and knowledge of their teachers can be an excellent way to learn more about your child’s disorder and what to expect for the future.

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