Coping and supportBy Mayo Clinic staff
Caring for a child with ADHD can be challenging for the whole family. Parents may be hurt by their child's behavior as well as by the way other people respond to it. The stress of dealing with ADHD can lead to marital conflict. These problems may be compounded by the financial burden that ADHD can place on families.
Siblings of a child with ADHD also may have special difficulties. They can be affected by a brother or sister who is demanding or aggressive, and they may also receive less attention because the child with ADHD requires so much of a parent's time.
Many resources are available, such as social services or support groups. Support groups often can provide helpful information about coping with ADHD. Ask your child's doctor if he or she knows of any support groups in your area.
There also are excellent books and guides for both parents and teachers, and Internet sites dealing exclusively with ADHD. But be careful of websites or other resources that focus on risky or unproved remedies or those that conflict with your health care team's recommendations.
Techniques for coping
Many parents notice patterns in their child's behavior as well as in their own responses to that behavior. Both you and your child may need to change behavior. But substituting new habits for old ones isn't easy — it takes a lot of hard work. It's important to have realistic expectations. Set small goals for both yourself and your child and don't try to make a lot of changes all at once.
To help manage ADHD:
- Structure your child's life. Structure doesn't mean rigidity or iron discipline. Instead, it means arranging things so that a child's life is as predictable, calm and organized as possible. Children with ADHD don't handle change well, and having predictable routines can make them feel safe as well as help improve behavior. Give your child a few minutes warning — with a countdown — when it's necessary to change from one activity or location to another.
- Provide positive discipline. Firm, loving discipline that rewards good behavior and discourages destructive actions is the best place to start. Also, children with ADHD usually respond well to positive reinforcement, as long as it's earned. Rewarding or reinforcing a new good behavior every time it occurs can encourage new habits.
- Stay calm and set a good example. Set a good example by acting the way you want your child to act. Try to remain patient and in control — even when your child is out of control. If you speak quietly and calmly, your child is more likely to calm down too. Learning stress management techniques can help you deal with your own frustrations.
- Strive for healthy family relationships. The relationship among all family members plays a large part in managing or changing the behavior of a child with ADHD. Couples who have a strong bond often find it easier to face the challenges of parenting than those whose bond isn't as strong. That's one reason it's important for partners to take time to nurture their own relationship.
- Give yourself a break. If your child has ADHD, give yourself a break now and then. Don't feel guilty for spending a few hours apart from your child. You'll be a better parent if you're rested and relaxed. And don't hesitate to ask relatives and friends for help. Make sure that baby sitters or other caretakers are knowledgeable about ADHD and mature enough for the task.
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