10 Ways to Help Your Child with ADHD

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Recently, we teamed up with Nation Wide Children’s Hospital for the #OnOurSleeves campaign! We don’t wear our thoughts and emotions on our sleeves and neither do our kids! Something we have discovered during our ADHD journey is that Landry also struggles with anxiety. We aren’t 100% sure if it’s a side effect or if it’s something separate entirely, but it definitely goes into high gear during the school year, especially around state testing time! He never tells us he is feeling anxious, instead, we will notice he starts to develop ticks, starts biting his nails, becomes moody, and even has insomnia!

On Our Sleeves
#onoursleeves

Our journey with ADHD has been an adventure, to say the least. Sometimes, we manage really well, almost on autopilot, and other times we are lost in the dark, not knowing how to get back on track. Landry was diagnosed with ADHD in Kindergarten, and it always seems that we have to change things up right as we are settling into a really good groove. Usually, when he has gotten off track, we realize that we have gone lax on some of our basic treatments or rules. 

ADHD can be a lot harder than you think to navigate, but we have learned a few things that have helped him cope with both school and his day to day life! Here are some things we have implemented to try to ensure that we are giving our son the best chance he has to successfully manage his day.

***Note, I know a lot of people have started to implement CBD Oil or other hemp based products into their ADHD Treatment and have very strong opinions about it. This list does NOT include any help products. We have not had enough of a discussion with our doctor about it, and something like that is not one that I would implement lightly without her consent.

1. Be Their Advocate

One thing you have to start doing is speaking up for your child early and often. If we had stopped when Landry’s Kindergarten teacher thought he was simply too immature, he would have been held back a year, and we would be a year or even more behind in working through his diagnosis.

Advocating for Landry can mean simply emailing his teacher and letting her know “he’s having an off morning” or “his insomnia is acting up,” so that she knows to offer him a little extra grace, or it can mean pushing harder when you don’t feel you’re getting the right responses. It means working as a team with your child’s teachers, meeting with them and talking on the phone every so often to talk about their progress. ADHD is nothing if it isn’t trail and error! Your child’s teachers need to know that they can call you if something you’re trying isn’t working, and you need to be open to their feedback without immediately going on the defensive.

Advocating also means knowing what your child’s rights are in your individual state, and how the schools can and cannot accommodate their individual needs. In Texas, certain students qualify for a 504 Plan which requires the schools to make certain modifications for their unique learning needs. It requires a yearly meeting (many more will be needed and you need to ask for them when necessary) with your child’s teachers, plus a few administrators like the school counselor and/or principal or vice principal.

Currently, our children’s rights for special needs accommodations are under attack both by our state and national governments. Advocating also means getting involved, and calling your representatives, and being very very loud to ensure they know you aren’t going to allow them to leave your child behind!

As a parent, you know in your gut if there is more to their behavior than what meets the eye; always go with it!

2. End the Stigma Around Medication

I can’t tell you how many times over the last five years people who are not family or close friends have asked me if we are medicating Landry for his ADHD and when I say “yes” they respond with “well have you tried changes to his diet, therapy, more physical activity, less ipad time, blah blah blah…” Parents can be so judgy, can’t they? Our treatment plan is, frankly, none of their business, but that doesn’t stop them from giving me their opinions. I hear unsolicited ADHD advice from “experts” almost as much as I did parenting and pregnancy advice when the boys were younger.

What’s worse, is that families discuss kids who are medicated at home as if it is a horrible thing. What do kids do when they hear us talk about issues? They repeat them! Last year, Landry went through a period of time where he would hide his medication instead of take it in the morning because some of the kids in his class made fun of him for needing it. All he wanted to be was normal, and he could not understand that he was completely normal! These other elementary aged kids did not learn that medicine was something to be stigmatized at school or on tv. They learned it at home, from parents who talked about it like it was a horrible thing, and like there was something wrong with children who needed it.

People who have ADHD, or any other mental health disease for that matter, need to know that it’s ok to talk about it and to seek help when they need it. If they’re made to feel shame surrounding it as a child, then they’ll continue to try to hide and run from their issues as an adult. My doctor once told me, that those who need the medication have a true chemical imbalance in their brains. When there is a chemical or mechanical issue with our cars, we take them to the shop to be diagnosed and fixed. Medicating for ADHD is the same concept. Some people just need the medication to rebalance, and there is nothing wrong with that.

3. Let Your Children See You Struggle and Come Out Ontop

How many times have you thought that your parents totally had it together, and never struggled, never fought, never faltered? Our parents generation, and those before them, were expected to maintain these perfect images. They didn’t have the answers any more than we did but by pretending to all the time, they did not teach us that it was ok to fail or struggle. My family never hid our issues from us, so I grew up knowing what it looked like to really have to push through your problems and ban together.

Some days we are a little wonky!

We have a pretty great family life, but it’s not always perfect, and when it’s not we don’t hide it from our kids. We don’t always make them privy to 100% of the details, but they do know if I’m struggling with my feelings, or mommy’s feelings are just a little hurt today, or I’m ignoring daddy because he put his foot in his mouth! My husband and I both have had to take medication for anxiety at different times, and we made sure our kids knew, because we needed Landry’s medication to be normal and ok too! By making it a point to not pretend that everything is fine all of the time, my kids know that it’s ok to not be ok.

The beauty in letting them see the struggle is that they will also see you rise to the top. They will see that life and relationships take work, and that working on yourself for the betterment of everyone is the good thing. They’re far more likely to model our behavior than what they read in a self-help book or are told to do from a doctor. If you’re not taking care of your problems, they will not take care of theirs when they are on their own.

4. Set Clear Expectations of Everyday Tasks

Everyone needs to know what their expectations are, and for a child with ADHD sometimes those expectations need to be laid out far more clearly than you would for a child who does not have ADHD. If I expect the kids to have a certain number of chores or tasks done daily (without having to repeat myself 1000 times), I need to make sure those expectations are laid out clearly for him to see, because unlike our other son, he simply won’t remember what to do from task to task.  Chore charts work great for a child with ADHD because they allow them to know what is expected of them, and check them off as they go.

chore chart

Over the years our definition of “chore” has changed. Landry’s chores of course include things like picking up, and putting away dishes, but it also includes things like doing your homework, and playing with the dog.

I keep these great magnetic charts on the fridge that let us change their chores as needed and allow them to check off their work as they go. Additionally, we keep a weekly calendar next to them so that Landry knows what days he needs to study something else a little more, or what days he has running club, or hockey practice, etc on.

My kids are not motivated by an allowance, but they are motivated by things. Don’t get me wrong, they like earning money and buying something they really want with it but if we’re trying to tackle a big ADHD type obstacle then money isn’t going to do it. Instead, we use our chore chart as a rewards tracker. Check off everything in a day, then you put a star on the calendar day, so many stars gets you that video game you’ve been asking for or tickets to the movie you really want to see! Once I know what Landry really really wants, we use that as a reward to motivate and get through the extra study time.

5. Timers, Timers, Timers

I’m not a big person on time and structure. My kids napped when they were little but if they napped at 1:30 instead of noon, it was never the end of the world to me. Part of ADHD, especially when kids are younger, includes a certain level of meltdowns when they have to end a task they are enjoying (like video games or playing at the park) or do a task they really don’t want to do (ie: homework or clean their room). Another thing with Landry, which may or may not have anything to do with his ADHD is he is an EARLY RISER. We’re talking ready to start the day at 5 am, even if he was up until midnight.

When Landry was about 4 years old, and constantly waking up his little brother who happens to love sleep, we came across this My Tot Clock. This thing is really cool! It lights up blue when he is supposed to be asleep, yellow or green for awake, red for time out, and you can even program activity time in to help your child manage their time.

Now that he’s older, Landry uses the timer on his watch or phone to time out his activities like studying and reading and knows he can’t get out of bed before a certain time in the morning. We use the ScreenTime App to manage his time on the tablet or award more time if it has been earned. It also helps us a great deal if we give him countdown warnings with activities we know he won’t want to stop or when I know I’m going to need him to start something else (ie: 5 more minutes of video games then it’s time to do the dishes). When he knows what to expect, we are far more likely to get favorable results!

6. Filling in the Gaps

Some kids with ADHD are physically hyper and move about classrooms more often than they should. My child is mentally hyper meaning he can be sitting in his seat, looking right at the teacher, and completely miss key parts of the lesson because in his mind he is far away. As a result we have to fill in gaps from his day at home.

Keeping in close contact with his teachers is a big deal for us, and we are so lucky that our kids school keeps an open line of communication with families. Landry’s teachers have never hesitated to give me a call every so often, or meet with me to look over his work and talk about some areas that he may need some extra help.

Over the years we have spent thousands of dollars on tutoring, when necessary, but have found that often the best course of action is just a little bit of extra work at home on a learning app or in a workbook will do the trick. I’m sure when he gets into advanced math, tutors will be necessary again!

Some of our favorite workbooks come from Usborne Books & More! They have sun a fun & unique approach to learning! When workbooks are well written and designed to allow your child to have fun while learning, they aren’t nearly as much of a headache to get them to put in the work!

We have also found some wonderful books on Amazon! Some of our favorites are from National Geographic. The pictures are bright and colorful and really hold the attention of my kids!

7. Let Them Wiggle

I remember when we were growing up, and if you were too wiggly in class you would get your name on the board! We were expected to sit still and be quiet! I’m so glad education has changed and that teachers now recognize that this is not a realistic for children, especially those with ADHD. They have to be able to get the wiggles out!

Like I said, Landry isn’t physically hyper, but a little bit of movement goes a long way with his ability to focus. At one point we even had “break breaks” written into his 504 accommodations where he could take a lap around the hallway, or just get up and jump around for a minute if they had been sitting for too long.

Then a couple of years ago, our school discovered Wobble Chairs. These things have revolutionized the classrooms for children with ADHD. Now, I’m not going to lie, the first time I sat in one during a parent-teacher conference, I just about fell out and broke my neck, but Landry LOVES it! If your school doesn’t already have them, consider asking your child’s teacher if you could provide one for your child to use in class! Our PTA even used capital improvement funds we raised to provide a few for select classrooms until bond money covered the addition of enough for each room.

8. A Good Night’s Sleep

We all know we can be super cranky if we don’t get enough sleep, or sleep well. Part of having an active mind means Landry has a really difficult time shutting it off at night to go to sleep. I’ve struggled with that problem my entire life so I didn’t even notice it was an issue with him until Luke came along and that kid is out to the world within minutes of shutting his eyes. We have always had a bedtime routine of baths, and reading to calm down, but as he’s gotten old, “Good Night Moon” stopped doing the trick for Landry.

Get a Good Night Sleep!

Landry needs extra help to wind down at night now. We use a combination of melatonin, essential oils for relaxation, and certain blankets to help him calm down and get his mind ready to rest.

I’m by no means an oils expert, but what I like about the Ellia brand is that they come mixed for whatever you’re looking for. The two above are great to help the boys get ready for bed at night. They also make some of allergies and stress that I love!

9. Diet and Weight Help

Landry is the only person in our family who struggles to keep weight on and not take it off! Part of being medicated for ADHD means that the medicine he takes curbs his appetite, so he barely touches his food from the time he takes his medicine to the time it wears off. This means that when he is hungry, he gets to eat just about anything he wants (within reason that is). Oh, to have his problem!

pizza

You were expecting me to say that we make sure he eats 100% organic with no red dye and other junk, right? As much as I’d love to be all holistic and stuff, I’m not, and I don’t really buy into all of that. I have never noticed a difference in him (or any of us) when we have tried to cut out certain foods that “experts” claim effect ADHD, but I do notice a difference in him based around the timing of when he eats and how much protein he gets in.

We make sure his breakfasts have protein in them to get him through the morning classes before lunch. We’ve tried sending snacks to school but he won’t eat them, so we compensate at breakfast time. Usually, he has an egg and bacon sandwich, and whole milk or even pedisure or a protein shake.

10. Find an Outlet for Anxiety and Energy

One of the biggest keys for Landry is finding a way to decompress from the pent up energy or anxiety. Depending on the day, Landry will sometimes want to just sit quietly and draw or write, and other times he needs physical activity.

When he’s looking to be creative, he takes a basic sketch pad and writes or draws about whatever he’s into at the moment. I used to ask him to draw or write his feelings but that just wasn’t his thing. If he does have feelings he needs to express, we usually just sit in a quiet corner and talk. When he’s too worked up to get his feelings out, he works it out physically first, then he is ready to talk!

punching bag

Sports have been key to working out his issues since day one! He needs a physical release both in the forms of hitting and running. He did take Taekwondo for years, which was a great outlet and taught him wonderful lessons about self-control, and we purchased a punching back that he still goes out and hits when he needs to work through something. Running club was also a great way to help him burn that extra energy!

When he can get the energy and tension out, then he is much more capable of quieting the excess noise in his mind and focus on a project or his feelings, and suddenly the world is much clearer.

Before beginning any kind of treatment plan or add modifications, it’s always best to talk with your child’s doctor to make sure they are on board. Having an open dialogue with your pediatrician will help you feel better about the decisions you’re making on behalf of your child.

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About The Author

Junell

We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. Kendall Delayne | 19th May 19

    My brother was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. I wish there were great tips like this when we were younger.

  2. T.M. Brown | 19th May 19

    The outlet for their anxiety and energy is a HUGE help. Our oldest had a movement disorder when he was younger and getting him involved in TKD was such a blessing. I agree with you – no one should giving their opinion about how to parent unless you have asked them for advice. You are Landry’s mom and you know him best, as well as the chemistry and needs of your family. I have no doubt you are doing what you feel is best for him!!!

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