10 Things Every Parent
Should Know to Help Their Child with ADD or ADHD
Leslie Miller, MSW, LICSW
3- 5% of children will carry a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD by the time they
reach elementary school. Many children are helped by
counseling, tutoring, structured time management in the home, and
healthy nurturing by parents, teachers and caregivers.
Prior to beginning medication you should get a
second opinion to make sure that your child has not been incorrectly
diagnosed and that he/she accurately meets the
criteria for ADD/ADHD. You may want to rule out that certain
behaviors are not caused by life stressors including major changes in
home, school, or caregivers, prior to the determination of a
diagnosis. Additionally, you may want to try some dietary changes to
rule out food allergies,
including excessive sugars, food colorings and additives in the
Here are some
things that you can do to help structure your child’s day to eliminate
1) Make sure
that your child has a tutor to get extra help with homework. As a
parent you will need to help structure your child’s time. Enlisting
outside help for homework will help you focus on your child’s time
management skills and limit conflict and excessive frustration.
Communicate openly with teachers and other caregivers regarding your
child’s diagnosis. Review periodically what is working and what is
not working for your child.
structure your child’s time so that he/she has ample to time to get
ready for school, appointments and any extracurricular activities.
Trying to do things last minute will be disastrous and frustrating.
You need to plan ahead.
3) When you
give your child a task or chore that you would like accomplished, be
very specific as to what your expectations are. Don’t just ask that
he/she clean their room. Make a checklist of each chore that you
expect completed (i.e. pickup clothing on floor, organize books,
change sheets on bed, etc.)
4) Make sure
you give a very specific time frame for when you would like something
completed (i.e. “Please take out the trash after school today before 5
5) Set limits
for homework. If your child loses the ability to concentrate, or
loses interest after 30 minutes of homework, structure the homework so
that he/she is working on it in 25/30 minute intervals with 15 minute
breaks. Factor in unstructured time throughout the day so that your
child does not feel overwhelmed by too much structuring of their
extracurricular activities. If you have a son or daughter that is
very interested in sports, make sure that they chose 1 sport per
season so that they do not become overloaded by running to and from
various activities, practices and meetings.
7) Do not
push your child beyond their limits or set unreasonable expectations.
It is very likely that your child will feel some embarrassment
regarding their diagnosis. Pushing your child will intensify their
frustration and yours as well.
8) Do not
allow the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD to become an excuse for everything
that goes wrong. Giving your child an out because they have ADD/ADHD
will help only serve to help them underachieve. While excessive
pressure is not recommended, allowing your child to underachieve due
to their diagnosis of ADD will be detrimental as it will set the bar
low for expectations from self and others.
videos and television and excessive multitasking. Many children claim
they can study with the music/television on especially in a culture
that promotes multi-tasking. Multi-tasking in general adds
significantly to stress levels and does not promote good habits or
discipline in most people. Keeping your home quiet (as much as
possible), eliminating environmental stressors (i.e. loud television,
music, video games, etc), will promote healthy habits and limit
10) Focus on your
child’s core strengths, help them identify key areas in which they
excel or show a high level of interest. Give positive feedback for
Helping your child develop positive self-esteem
will be critical. Children and adolescents with ADD/ADHD may be more
susceptible to juvenile delinquency, peer-pressure, depression and
substance abuse. Helping your child develop key strengths, interests
and special skills will go a long way to help combat these issues. If
your child is showing an excessive amount of frustration, anger or
defiance at home or in school, review with a counselor your daily
routines, medication and any additional psychosocial stressors. For
parents of children with ADD/ADHD, consider getting
and support. You may need help managing your child’s time, academic
life and social activities in a way that is balanced and can be
managed effectively and incorporated into your family routine.
About the Author:
Leslie Miller has
been a practicing psychotherapist who has worked with families,
couples and children for 10 years.
Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate
(Health and Geriatric Psychologist)
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