Employee & Community Health

5 tips for managing ADHD in children

2/8/2018 by Renee Breland, APRN, MS, CNP

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Does your child have difficulty focusing on an activity or act impulsively? When symptoms are severe enough and cause ongoing problems in more than one area of your child's life, it could be a sign of a neurobehavioral disorder, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

ADHD is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. 

Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships, school anxiety and poor performance in school. Symptoms sometimes lessen with age. However, some people never completely outgrow ADHD, but they can learn strategies to be successful. 

While treatment won't cure ADHD, it can help a great deal with symptoms. Treatment typically involves medications and behavioral interventions. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in the outcome for your child. 

Here are some behavioral strategies to help manage your child's ADHD. 

Praise and reward your child when rules are followed. Children with ADHD often receive and expect criticism more so than other children. This can really affect their self-esteem. Some days, you might have to look hard for the good behavior, but you should praise good behavior at least five times more often than you criticize bad behavior. 

Give clear, effective directions or commands. Make eye contact or gently touch your child on the arm or shoulder to get their attention. Give brief, simple steps and short commands that get to the point rather than multiple directions or wordy statements/questions. 

Establish healthy habits. If your child is on a medication, it should be taken as prescribed. Contact your child's health care provider if problems arise. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet consisting of three meals, a snack and adequate fluids every day, and has an outlet for some form of daily exercise. These healthy habits will help your child to feel their best and minimize ADHD symptoms. 

Develop routines around homework and chores.

  • Work together to make a checklist of what needs to be done for daily chores, getting ready for bed and school, so your child has something to refer to when they get off task. 
  • Encourage your child to use a daily planner so they're aware of all homework assignments. 
  • Have an established time and location for homework, and use a timer to remind your child two to four times an hour to show you progress on their work. 
  • Factor in brain breaks if your child needs them. Add movement between tasks or let them use an appropriate fidget toy. 

Help your child build relationships, strong social skills and maintain friendships.

  • Be a good role model for behavior you want your child to practice. 
  • To help maintain a strong parent-child relationship, set aside some special time with your child three to five days a week. Make sure this time doesn't involve a screen and that it's conflict free. 
  • Help your child develop at least one close friendship. With younger children, parents may need to take the lead to arrange and host play dates or get kids involved in activities where there are other children the same age. 

Renee Breland, APRN, MS, CNP, is a certified nurse practitioner in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Integrated Community Specialty Pediatric ADHD Clinic and a general pediatric practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System Cannon Falls. .