The difficulties in raising a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) go beyond what most parents can handle. Many turn to doctors for both advice and treatment and still have trouble getting a grip at home.
Furthermore, most doctors will advise you to put your child on medication. Considering some ADHD medication is highly addictive and can be detrimental to a developing brain, we highly advise you take on strategies of your own before receiving a prescription.¹
The purpose of this blog is to help you develop your own strategy guide as a means of helping your child focus without medication. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Where Do Kids with ADHD Struggle?
If you can identify where your child struggles most, you’ll have more of an ability to help them. It’s important to note that ADHD affects every child differently. Therefore, not everything mentioned below will relate to your specific case.
Here are the four areas of life where children with ADHD struggle most:
As a parent, it can be really difficult to see your child struggling to make friends or be apart of a group. Keep in mind that these struggles are not his/her fault. Rather, they are products of impulsive behavior.²
If you see your child interrupting a game or making a fuss when things don’t go the way s/he intended, try to:
Role-play or act out any kind of situation your child may be confronted with. With you there to guide them through how to act, there’s a much better chance s/he will replicate or, at least, understand how to act in the situation when it does arrive.
If you’ve been raising a child with ADHD for some time now, you’re well aware of the mess s/he can make. In effect, s/he has lost items of importance from time to time, such as homework, his/her favorite toy, or a cell phone.
In order to keep up with your child, be sure to:
Make a check-list of everything s/he needs on a daily basis. From there, keep track of these items and influence the importance of them to your child.
3. Finishing Tasks
Whether it’s chore day or a school assignment, children with ADHD have trouble completing a variety of different tasks. This can not only be a problem in the house but become a problem in academic achievements.
As a means of making sure your child completes various tasks:
Keep an organization chart or checklist as this will help your child visualize what s/he needs to do in order to get to a point they want to reach.
REMEMBER: Most children with ADHD want to finish a specific task. They simply can’t find it in themselves to do so out of their ADHD symptoms.
Just as children have trouble organizing their bedrooms, they similarly have difficulties managing time. This is mainly due to complications with their attention.
If you want your child to better plan his/her time:
Create a weekly picture schedule to help them visualize where s/he needs to stay on track. This will allow him/her to develop his/her own solution which s/he will most likely carry on later in life.
Getting Your Child to Focus
It’s no secret that one of the biggest difficulties children with ADHD face is having the ability to focus. These days, distractions are everywhere and many parents struggle with getting their children to focus.
So, here are five tips for you to practice the next time your child needs to complete an important assignment:
- Be Mindful with Your Child – By this, we’re advising you to practice meditation or breathing techniques with your child to produce mindfulness. These techniques have proven to help children better their behavior and potential to focus.³
- Give Your Child a Time Limit – Before you even begin a project, make sure your child knows s/he has a time limit to either complete the project or stay focused on it. These timers are a great way to allow your child to understand when they’re allowed to take a break and will most likely influence them to get more done within the timeframe you set.
- Get Right to Work – When your child needs to complete a project, DON’T let them procrastinate. Jump right into it. Tip: If you break projects down into chunks, your child will feel less stress over the task at hand.
- Limit Directions – Remember, one of the biggest struggles children with ADHD face is that of focusing. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to only have them focus on one or two items of a big project at once.
- Keep an Open Mind – As you try to get your child to focus on a task, you may find s/he is more adaptable to a technique not mentioned here. If so, go with it. Be open to other ways of helping your child out.
Talking with Your Child
A key element in helping your child properly develop is proper communication. This will not only allow you to get across ideas of your own but also learn where your child may be going wrong.
Of course, communication isn’t always easy. Especially with a child who has trouble focusing.
So, what can you say to your child? The most important thing is to first listen to what s/he has to say. If your child trusts you’ll listen to them, they will feel more inclined to listen to what you have to say.
In order to get your child to speak, it’s important to ask questions. Questions such as:
- “What do you think helps you focus?”
- “What distracts you more than anything?”
- “Is there anything I can do to help you focus?”
Questions as such will lead you to answers which vary from child to child. Some children with ADHD work better in a neat environment while others find they can focus if another child in their class isn’t so loud and distracting.
Let your child give you the answers to the problems s/he is thinking. As adults, we can rationalize how to help our children better. In the examples mentioned above, a good parent would influence and help a child organize their working environment and ask the teacher to sit their child away from the distracting classmate.
Still, some parents may simply have trouble influencing their child to want to focus. If you feel as though no matter what you try, your child won’t listen to you, you’re not alone.
A solution to this problem is offering encouragement. If your child has a big project due at the end of the week and s/he is having trouble getting it done, you have to find a way to encourage him/her to begin and continue working on it.
Since every child works differently, it can be difficult to pinpoint how to encourage your own. Therefore, you may also want to spend time getting to know your child and figuring out what makes him/her most happy. Whether it’s a toy or taking a fishing trip, you will find ways to encourage him/her.
Most Common Distractions
When it comes to your child’s focus, you may need to seek the core of the problem. However, it’s important to note, when you do find the core, you shouldn’t punish your child. Children with ADHD can’t help becoming distracted similarly to how you and I can’t help scratching ourselves whenever we have an itch: it’s practically instinctual.
So, when you do find the core of this problem, it’s vital you continue with encouragement to help lean your child away from distractions.
Since every child works differently, their distractions will differ. However, here are the most common forms of distraction a child will come across:
- Loud noises (such as a phone’s ring or a dog’s bark).
- Playing with or touching things they shouldn’t.
- The nature of their thoughts.
It should also be noted, children with ADHD will find the smallest things interesting. Whether this is a fly buzzing around the room or someone walking past the doorway in their class.
Though it seems difficult at the current moment, children with ADHD all have a chance to live out a fulfilling life. Many will grow into adults who no longer face the symptoms and, those who do, tend to develop their own understanding for controlling their focus.
As we discussed in the intro, a medical professional will advise your child undergoes traditional ADHD treatment which requires potentially addictive medication. Though this advice will work for some children, it’s in your benefit to try some of the techniques mentioned in this blog before giving your child medication.
You may find that with a little effort on your end and a little practice on theirs, your child will beat their symptoms on their own term.
Still have questions concerning how to help a child with ADHD focus?
We invite you to ask them in the comments below. If you have any personal experience or advice to offer other parents, we’d also love to hear from you.
We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.
¹ NIDA: Prescription Stimulants
² HHS Public Access: Social functioning difficulties in ADHD
³ NIH News in Health: Mindfulness Matters