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Driven to Distraction - 10 Tips for Parents of an ADD Child

All parents wish they could be better informed. If your child has ADD today, fortunately, resources are plentiful and accessible, so you must get actively involved in your child’s quest to manage their ADD.

When your child is diagnosed and labeled with any kind of disorder, this can be just as hard on the parent as it is on the child. There are few things as frustrating, scary and unwelcome as the news that something is wrong with your kid.

It is hard for parents to remain cool, calm and collected in a situation where they have no clue how to make things better for their child. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming and in no small part because most parents are only experts on childhood diseases such as ear infections, antibiotics and hives.


All parents wish they could be better informed. If your child has ADD today, fortunately, resources are plentiful and accessible, so you must get actively involved in your child’s quest to manage their ADD.

Here are 10 ways that you can do that:

1. Read everything you can get your hands on about ADD. Educate yourself first and foremost. Know what options, rights and opportunities your child has open to them. Also, get out and meet and network with parents of other ADD children. It can be a wonderful and uplifting experience to be around people who know what you’re going through and other parents can be a great source of ideas and information to help you and your child.

2. Make yourself available to share with your child what you know about ADD. (You need to be sensitive in your approach based on your child’s age and personality. For example, a younger child may need for you to take the initiative to sit down and have ‘a talk,’ whereas a teenager may need more ‘space’ and you should wait for them to come to you to have the conversation.) Don’t sugar coat or omit important information, but also, don’t scare them or over-dramatize. The idea is to give your child a sense of control by providing relevant information that will help demystify their diagnosis and prevent their over-active imaginations from going wild.

3. Examine your own attitude towards ADD and how you now view your child. Are you disappointed? Scared? Angry? Take the time to be aware of any negative feelings and to figure out why you feel the way you do. This may sound all touchy-feely, but the truth is unless you understand what’s going through your own mind, you won’t be able to offer your child the level of support and encouragement that they need in order to successfully bring the ADD under control. Set aside any expectations and ambitions you may have had for your son or daughter and encourage them to pursue those interests where they show the greatest aptitude and giftedness... even if they are non-traditional or unorthodox.

4. Pay particular attention to your child’s self-esteem and work hard to boost it at every turn. Praise them when they succeed at even the smallest thing. Remember that ADDers love praise and thrive on recognition. It may be very hard to find praise-worthy things about them, but you must try. This is crucial!

5. Involve your child in any decision-making you can; anything from what brand of cookies to buy at the supermarket to the best place in the house for them to do homework. (Kids usually feel like they have no say in anything anyway, as they struggle for their independence.) So a diagnosis of any perceived disability will only convince them further that their life is completely out of their control. This may lead to an attitude of apathy, causing your offspring to use the word “whatever,” far more frequently than you can handle. Offering opportunities to make decisions (and then living with the consequences of those decisions), should help them begin to gain a sense of ownership and control over their life.

6. If the ‘techniques’ and ‘strategies’ you have been using to help your child are not working, don’t be afraid to try something different! It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because your child is the one with the challenge that they should be the one to make changes in their behavior, but this is counterproductive thinking. It’s up to the adults to be creative and think outside the box. Sometimes only after we make changes in our own attitudes and behaviors that we open the door for our child to respond in a positive way.

7. Create a fun reward system. Along with generous praise, kids with ADD are motivated and respond very well to tangible displays of appreciation.

8. The parent with the best organizational abilities should partner up with their child to help them set realistic goals in any and all areas of their life. Break down big tasks into small chunks and celebrate the completion of every stage of the project. Consistency in doing this will give your child an opportunity to experience and savor the feeling of ‘success’ and accomplishment. That is a reward in itself and will serve to motivate them to continue setting goals.

9. Watch what you say to your child and how you say it. Become aware of your tone and facial expressions when speaking with your child. ADDers are notoriously sensitive and perceptive – they will pick up on the smallest nuances of negativity or sarcasm and spend hours obsessing about the conversation. Never put down or tease your child – they will be hurt deeply and it will take a hundred kind words to undo one negative one. Build ‘em up, don’t break ‘em down!

10. It is entirely possible that you yourself have ADD – it runs in families. If so, take it easy on yourself. Take the time out to reward yourself for being the best parent you can be. Take a break from your parental responsibilities, even if just for the afternoon, and treat yourself to some ‘me’ time. Parents need to be praised and rewarded as well for all of our hard work!

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