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Life with ADHD: At home and school

Did we do something to cause this?

All parents want their children to be happy and healthy. It can be extremely painful when others notice the negative aspects of your child with ADHD but don’t see their positive traits. Parents of children with ADHD can feel frustrated and inadequate—even like failures.

There are many things you can do to help support your child (or any family member) with ADHD.

Improving behaviours

  • As a parent, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about ADHD and how it affects your child. The following are some strategies that can help improve behaviours:
  • Use a positive approach and calm tone of voice; use praise where appropriate.
  • Avoid using the words “stop,” “don’t” and “no.” Instead of saying, “Stop talking so much,” say, “If you want to talk, raise your hand and wait for your name.”
  • Set clear goals and limits, and connect them with rewards; keep choices to only two or three options.
  • Create a “work ethic” understanding by saying, “If you do this, you get that.” Be consistent, firm and fair, and follow through.
  • If parents live in separate homes, it’s ideal to share some common rules (e.g., the same bedtime). However, this is not always possible, so the next best thing is for each home to be consistent with its rules.
  • Start statements with the phrase, “I understand.” For example, you can say, “I understand this may be difficult for you, but I know you can do it.” This helps the child be less defensive and more likely to listen to your advice and instructions, and to understand that they will have responsibilities like other children.

Meeting goals

ADHD doesn’t just affect a child’s schoolwork. It can make it harder for them to make friends and be part of activities and sports in which they need focus. The following strategies can help your child focus and meet their goals; share this list with your child’s teacher(s) to see where they can help:

  • Understand that structure and routine are very important.
  • Prioritize tasks and avoid procrastination; split big tasks into several smaller steps.
  • Use visual reminders (e.g., sticky notes, calendars) in common places; use timers or apps for reminders (e.g., homework, chores).
  • Keep special containers in easy-to-remember locations for items that are commonly lost, such as keys and cellphones.
  • Find an area of the house or classroom where the person with ADHD finds it easiest to work.
  • Allow the child to take breaks to get up and move around.
  • Allow the child to have white noise during tasks that require focus.
Exploring you options: Treating ADHD