How easily the gifts of ADHD are lost on a child amid negative comments from doctors, teachers, and even loving but frustrated parents. I believe that ADD is too often misunderstood and mistreated because it is mislabeled as only a “disability.” In truth, practical strength-based techniques can put the talents, charms, and positive essence of children with ADD/ADHD ahead of any presumed shortcomings.
My best advice for parents is to take action now. Don't fight it. Persist in finding new and different ways to support your child. If you address the following topics, and get the guidance you need, you'll teach your children to manage their ADD/ADHD effectively by making plans that include healthy decisions.
Parents need to look at treatment as the unwrapping of gifts, not as the rectification of a disorder or the filling in of a deficit. Every treatment plan should include:
- Diagnosis (includes detailed medical history & identification of strengths)
- Changes in lifestyle
- Counseling and/or coaching of some kind
- Brain health
- A consideration of various other therapies
If your child feels optimistic about who s/he is and about what life has to offer, s/he will do far better than if s/he does not. I see the condition of ADHD not so much as a disorder, but as a trait. Certainly it can lead to very bad outcomes (the prisons are full of people with undiagnosed and/or untreated ADHD), but it can also lead to huge success, joy and fulfillment in life.
ADD/ADHD is as much a marker of talent as it is a potential problem. The problems can be taken care of. Personally, I am thrilled that my kids can think outside the box, are intuitive, persistent, and creative. They have huge hearts and a desire to march to the beat of their own drums. All these positives are what make people with ADHD so interesting and potentially successful.
Once they get a handle on what's going on, people with ADHD tend to contribute to the world in a very positive way. Having ADHD is like having a race car engine for a brain with weak brakes. Once you strengthen your brakes, you're ready to win races!
This is a crucial issue. Often, families get into what I call “the big struggle.” Every morning and every evening, every weekend and every vacation, devolves quickly into conflict, bickering, blaming, and yelling, with doors slamming and, sometimes, physical violence. Obviously, this is not good.
I strongly urge families to work with a family therapist to help break the struggle. You need a referee to make sure every voice gets heard and no one dominates.
Once you break the initial cycle, you can work with a therapist or a coach to set up structure, routines, contingency plans, and safeguards to prevent the big struggle from re-emerging.
Every family has work that needs to get done. Divide the labor by ability, interest, and preference, not gender. Let the best organizer tend to organization, and the best party-maker make the parties. Let the best mathematician help with math homework, and the best ball player play catch.
People do best what they are good at and what they like to do, whether it is a mom or a dad. There are many tasks that both parents can do equally well. You just want to make sure the division is fair between both parents. And, don't forget to give your kids chores as well!!
Finally, my most important single rule for parents is this: Enjoy your children. Planning special time together greatly reduces the stress and anxiety that leads to many “bad” behaviors. Try to avoid using it for discipline, correction, advising and picking up messes. Have fun! If you are doing that, you are doing it right, almost for sure.
This is basic, but it warrants saying clearly: healthy lifestyle choices, while good for everyone, are especially helpful for managing ADHD most effectively. Get more physical exercise, especially outdoors. Limit time on electronics. Eat family dinner together. Get enough sleep. Pray or meditate (yes, kids can do both!). Eat a diet that includes whole foods, excludes much sugar or additives, and includes lots of veggies. I also recommend fish oil as a supplement.
As a parent, it's up to you to teach your child how to accept and manage life with ADD/ADHD. Don't give up. Your success in addressing these 5 areas will lead to your child's success, and a lot more joy for the entire family.
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Dr. Hallowell's Keys to Unlocking ADHD
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