I recently observed the parents of a child with ADHD at a birthday party. It seemed like their level of stress related to their child was monumental compared to the other parents. And that got me thinking, what could these parents do to make their lives easier, and would they be less stressed if they were better prepared?
So I did some research and realized that it is challenging to be a parent or caregiver of a child with ADHD because of the patience, energy, and strength it requires to raise a child that needs extra empathy, affection, and attention from their parent or caregiver. Children with ADHD have functionally different brains than others. Therefore a parent or caregiver has to modify their own behaviours while learning how to manage their child’s behaviours.
This all can be pretty overwhelming if you are unprepared for an upbringing outside the traditional norms.
Add Structure to your life
It turns out that the best thing you can do as a parent or caregiver is to structure your life. There is no more room for chaos and impulse. Establish a routine; for your child and yourself.
Create fun but productive rituals around meals, bedtime, homework, playtime etc. For example, preparing for the morning by laying out clothes the night before is an excellent ritual for bedtime and helps prepare the morning ritual before school.
Try to organize and remove distractions so these routines can be effectively followed.
Plan everything, from downtime for yourself to vacations to playdates, anything to keep you organized and on track. Try to cover everyone’s needs, including yours, when making these plans.
A minimalist approach to your household would help your child’s mind stay calm and less chaotic. But not everyone can live like a minimalist, so declutter as much as possible and keep your home organized, so the child knows where everything goes. This helps them keep their mind focused on what’s important instead of getting distracted with looking for things. This also helps prepare them to be organized as they grow older and are more independent. One of the chores the child should be involved in is helping you organize. This helps them establish the logic behind the structure and organization – what goes where and why. This will encourage the child to think logically as they organize their own space.
Activities vs Distractions for the ADHD brain
A child with ADHD can easily be distracted by electronics, and some of these may encourage impulsive and aggressive behaviours. So the key is to have the least amount of distractions that are low in functionality; for example, a video for guided yoga is much better than say, an episode of paw patrol.
The reason being that these kids have a lot of pent-up energy, and they need activities planned for the day where the child can exert this energy without being disruptive.
Exercise is a big help when it comes to excess energy. Encouraging a daily walk or bike ride is a good way to help the child exert energy in a healthy way. It allows them to concentrate on a task and promotes focus.
Thirty minutes of brisk walking every day has been known to help reduce anxiety and depression dramatically. So that would be excellent for both you as the parent and the child.
To be able to manage your depression and anxiety is essential in the upbringing of your child. Everything that happens to you affects your child in one way or another. So to have a healthy mental and emotional state is important for a parent.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner is also essential for the overall well-being of the family.
As a parent, you need to take care of yourself before taking care of a dependent. Like they say in aeroplanes before take-off, put your oxygen mask on first before you put it on your child during an emergency.
So as a parent of a child with ADHD, you have an even bigger responsibility to take care of yourself. Do mental check-ins with yourself, watch your emotions, catch yourself projecting negativity onto your partner or child. Ask for help.
If you’re happy, then most likely, your child will be happy as well.
No one is perfect, but a child doesn’t need perfect parents; they just need happy ones.
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