2. Find out as much as you can about ADHD and available resources: One of the most significant challenges in parenting an ADHD child is that it requires a great deal of parental participation. Effective parent participants become knowledgeable about the disorder and available resources.
A key role for caregivers of ADHD children is serving as coordinators of services and other resources. First, they coordinate the evaluation and diagnostic process with its many professionals. Later, they must coordinate the educational and treatment services.
Yet another coordinating role for the primary caregivers is to coordinate the care of all the other caregivers. This includes grandparents, step-parents, relatives, neighbors, and babysitters. Everyone must work together and follow the same approach. The people who care for a child with ADHD should form a similar treatment philosophy and plan of action. This is not always easy to do. Sometimes a professional can help get everyone on the same page.
Another central role is advocacy for their child. Caregivers may not always agree with some recommendations. That's okay. They should speak up and express their concerns. In order to be a good advocate, caregivers must be able to knowledgably participate in team discussions. This knowledge will help them evaluate recommendations, and to select the best treatment approach for their child.
3. Evaluate your own potential for ADHD
As caregivers learn more about ADHD, they should consider whether or not they may also have the disorder. Since ADHD is generally inherited, many caregivers of newly diagnosed children discover that they too have ADHD. Research indicates that 70% of children with ADHD have at least one parent who also has the disorder. Clearly it would be hard for a caregiver to teach the very same skills that give them difficulty. For example, it would be quite difficult for a parent with ADHD to increase organization and structure in the home. However, once a caregiver learns that they too have ADHD, they are in a better position to help their child.
4. Be proactive to prevent ADHD-related accidents and injuries
Children with ADHD generally sustain more accidents and injuries than other children. Inattention, impulsivity, and poor decision-making often lead to rushing into situations without thinking. For example, a young child may forget to check both ways when crossing the street. Research indicates that teenagers with ADHD who drive may have more traffic violations or accidents, than those without ADHD.
One ramification of more frequent injuries is increased medical costs. When this additional cost is added to the costs of diagnosis, therapy, and medication, it becomes clear this is a costly disorder for both families and insurance companies.
Caregivers should teach and instill safety precautions at early ages to reduce the risk of injuries. Families can establish certain rules that make these safety expectations clear. Rules should be consistently enforced using behavioral training methods (e.g., reward desired behavior). Repeat the safety rules a sufficient number of times so that children can recite the safety rules on their own.
Remember, impulsive children will require more supervision than other kids. Do not be discouraged! With the right attitude and approach, time spent supervising your child can be a positive experience.
Caregivers' safety guidelines: Techniques to reduce injuries in ADHD kids
The following techniques can be used to reduce the likelihood of injury for children with ADHD:
- When riding anything with wheels, always wear a safety helmet and other recommended protective gear (i.e., knee pads).
- Before the child goes out, review safety rules each and every time. Review the consequences for failing to follow the safety rules.
- Consider enrolling the child in a bicycle safety class.
- Limit the amount of time the child can engage in higher-risk behaviors, such as swimming. Monitor these activities to be sure the rules and time limits are followed.
- Keep dangerous household products, tools, and equipment out of reach of young children. As children get older, establish and discuss household safety rules on a regular basis.
- Teach the safe use of tools and monitor their use.
- Limit the volume, and duration of music permitted while driving. Limit when passengers are permitted. Prohibit cell phone use while driving. Have a designated location for phone storage while driving. Insist on a consistent habit of placing the phone in this location.
- Adjust privileges according to maturity level, rather than chronological age.
- Communicate clear expectations; use structure as a tool to ensure safety.
- Use behavioral strategies, such as rewards and consequences, to motivate children to comply with safety rules. For example, stickers for wearing a helmet, and taking away the bike for a week if the helmet was not worn.
- Before any dangerous activity is permitted (driving, skiing) ensure plenty of time for learning safety precautions and safe techniques. Include plenty of supervised practice sessions.
- Substance use is a particularly important topic to discuss. Children need guidance in these areas. Research has demonstrated that kids will listen to their caregivers concerns and warnings about substance use.
- Whenever possible, talk through the consequences of actions with the child. Give them opportunities to think through the consequences themselves. For example, ask, "What might happen if you cross the street without looking?" This will help promote and develop their executive functioning skills.