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Tips for Parents of Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder

Margarita Woodbury, M.D.

Parents can help their child manage their symptoms and improve their development. These tips include establishing routines and structure, breaking tasks into smaller steps, setting aside time for play therapy, using positive reinforcement, and encouraging physical activity

What is Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder?

Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects children and adolescents. Children with ADHD often struggle with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can make it difficult for them to succeed in school and social situations. However, with the right strategies, parents can help their children manage their symptoms and thrive. Below are some tips I offer for parents of children with ADHD.

How can I help my child with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder?

Establish Routines and Structure

Children with ADHD often benefit from routines and structure. Establish a consistent schedule for meals, homework, and bedtime, and provide clear expectations for behavior. Use visual aids such as charts and lists to help your child understand and remember the routine.

Break Tasks into Smaller Steps

Children with ADHD may struggle with completing tasks because they can become overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to do. Break tasks into smaller steps and provide frequent positive reinforcement for each completed step. This will help your child stay motivated and focused.

Set aside time daily to play with your child

The Floortime approach involves engaging in play with your child on their level, following their lead, and using the play as a way to promote their development.It promotes attachment. Here are some tips for engaging in Floor Time play with your child:

  1. Get Down on the Floor: Sit or lie down on the floor with your child to engage in play. This helps you get on their level and engage with them in a way that is comfortable for them.

  2. Follow Their Lead: Let your child choose the activity and follow their lead. If they are playing with blocks, join in and build with them. If they are playing with dolls, join in and act out a scene with them. The only limit is no breaking items and no aggression.

  3. Engage in Back-and-Forth Play: Use the play as a way to engage in back-and-forth communication with your child. If they hand you a block, take it and hand it back to them. This helps them learn turn-taking and social skills.

  4. Use the Play to Promote Development: Use the play as a way to promote your child's development. If they are playing with blocks, use the opportunity to talk about colors, shapes, and sizes. If they are playing with dolls, use the opportunity to talk about emotions and social situations.

Encourage Physical Activity

Physical activity can help children with ADHD burn excess energy and improve their focus. Encourage your child to participate in activities such as sports, dance, or martial arts. Even a simple activity such as taking a walk or riding a bike can be helpful. Playing games with your child such as tag and hide and seek, helps both your connection with each other and uses up energy so the child feels calmer and more attached afterwards.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool for helping children with ADHD. Offer praise and rewards for positive behaviors, such as completing homework or following the routine. Catch them applying good skills. Make a chart with the chores expected and the parent adds a sticker to each chore completed. Then at the end of the week the child can receive a reward.This can help your child feel more motivated and confident.

Help with Transitions

Children with ADHD may struggle with transitions, such as switching from one activity to another. Provide advance notice of upcoming transitions and use visual aids such as a timer or a picture schedule to help your child understand what is coming next.

  • Use Visual Aids: Visual aids such as picture schedules, timers, and checklists can help children with ADHD understand and prepare for transitions.

  • Provide Warnings: Provide advance warning before a transition, such as “in five minutes, we will be finishing up this activity.”

  • Use Positive Reinforcement: Offer praise and rewards for positive behaviors during transitions, such as following the routine or completing the transition without difficulty.

  • Encourage Self-Regulation: Teach your child strategies for self-regulation, such as taking deep breaths and other mindfulness strategies, or counting to ten. Other methods are meditation and yoga stretches. These skills help the child cope with the stress of transitions.

In conclusion, ADHD can be challenging for families, but with the right strategies and support that I provide, children with ADHD can thrive. I work with children and parents to implement these skills and create a personalized approach to treatment that includes play therapy, behavioral interventions, and sometimes medication. Learn more about an example treatment plan and contact me to begin your journey to wellness.

About me

Margarita Woodbury, M.D. is an integrative child, adolescent, adult psychiatrist & psychotherapist located in Walnut Creek, CA and serving patients across the San Francisco, Bay Area.


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