Want some help to prevent (or, at least, minimize) risky behavior in your kids with ADHD?
In a recent Sanity Session, a mom hesitated before she shared that her son has broken 18 bones in 17 years. He's been caught stealing, self-medicating, and otherwise inappropriately engaging a wide range of risky behaviors. This year, he finally got suspended from school.
I think she was a little surprised that I wasn't surprised.
The facts are clear. Kids with ADHD have a higher likelihood to engage in risky behaviors than their neuro-typical peers. They are impulsive, inattentive, and (sometimes) moving at a thousand miles a minute. It’s a recipe for danger, for sure.
Add to that a brain that is constantly seeking stimulation, and it is enough to keep a parent’s hair sticking straight up.
So what can parents do to minimize risky behavior?
- Raise awareness to the risks. Let your kids know that their brains are wired for excitement, and that they don't automatically think before they act. Since their brains are wired like, “Ready-Shoot-Aim," they are going to need to be extra cautious – more so than their friends – for responding to everything from playing in the neighborhood to peer pressure to sexuality to deciding whether it’s really wise to jump off a second story balcony (not!). Help them see (without judgment) that learning to aim first is challenging, but will definitely help them hit the bulls-eye more often!
- Once you raise their awareness and understanding, Take Aim on specific circumstances. For example, before you get out of a car with a younger child, take the time to stop and set the expectation: “Remember, there are lots of cars here, and you’re short! :), so we need to slow down, keep looking around, and hold hands.” Work on strategies to curb impulsivity, as that’s where a lot of accidents tend to happen. You can’t eliminate these risky behaviors, but you can limit them, and slowly help your child become more and more thoughtful about every day behaviors.
- With older kids, let them know about the statistics about ADHD and driving, and drugs and alcohol, and addiction, and teen pregnancy. Be matter-of-fact, without judgment or shame. This is not to scare them, but to teach them that this is their reality and it's up to them to learn to manage it. Let them know that you understand that this is a challenge for them, and something you'll continue to work on with them for years to come.
For many parents, risky behavior with ADHD scares us most because it feels so out of control. So make risky behavior the elephant in the room. Don't ignore it -- talk about it.