A Beginner’s Guide to Coping With Childhood ADHD
4 minute read
When I hear the letters ADHD, a part of me becomes very uncomfortable. Uh oh, what now? Run in the opposite direction? Ignore? Scream? Shout? Cry?
Why? Because, often ADHD is associated negatively with children who are naughty and who constantly misbehave. Their behavior suddenly becomes who they are, with a NICE BIG label.
“Don’t worry about that child, she has ADHD!”
Labels are the worst form of punishment, because the child goes through life either believing that he or she is incapable of change or they use it as a crutch. In most schools, there is a prevalence of between 3 – 7% of children who suffer from ADHD. The statistics are similar across all cultures and schools.
“Where?” You might ask. Where does this WORD come from? Well, it is genetic. Most cases are inherited from parents or due to complications during pregnancy or birth (If the child was premature, for example). This does not mean that all premature children will be diagnosed with ADHD, but it is something to be aware of. The consumption of alcohol or drugs during pregnancy also contributes to the diagnosis of ADHD in a child.
What is it?
The thing about ADHD that causes such frustration is that it becomes explicitly a “behavioral problem”, where people find it ok to label and regard these kids as problematic and ill-disciplined. That is the wrong approach. No one is ever punished for having the flu or being diagnosed with autism, are they? No, because that would be ridiculous.
So why punish children with ADHD, because of their symptoms?
ADHD is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type, which means that it cannot be helped! Can you hear me screaming?
In the brain, chemicals called neurotransmitters do not work the same in children with ADHD. There are also indicators that there is a difference in nerve pathways between a child with ADHD and a child without ADHD. Some parts of the brain may also be less active or reduced in children with ADHD.
How do you know?
Eek! You will know …
Most children don’t like sitting still, however a child with ADHD CANNOT sit still. He/she is incapable of concentrating for longer than a certain amount of time. He/she will fidget all the time using their hands or feet. Their restlessness becomes a distraction to other children, especially at school.They can be destructive and can get frustrated when they are unable to complete tasks.They lack impulse control, so the likelihood of them getting into fights or arguments is high. They are attracted to danger and tend to be unpredictable. The talking never ends, and they are extremely impatient They want what they want NOW. They do not like to complete tasks or find it difficult to concentrate long enough to complete it, and they forget things quite easily.
As a parent or a teacher, you can probably recognize these symptoms and possibly realize that whatever label you had given or decided to give this child, whose conditions are out of her or his control, was a bit premature. Shouting or screaming at him/her will not help, and could possibly make things worse. Think about it, you wouldn’t shout at your child for having depression, would you?
Generally speaking, the symptoms of ADHD might overlap with certain events that happen in a child’s life. So be careful not to assume your child has ADHD without speaking to him or her first Maybe they are going through a phase or have suffered a loss. Traumatic events can cause a change in behavior in children, for example, if a parent passes on or even a pet. For a time, the child could display disruptive and restless behavior. This is why ADHD must be diagnosed, and not assumed.
No one, not even a teacher, can diagnose a child with ADHD if they are not a qualified clinical professional. Diagnosis is clinical and based on a detailed history taken from parents, teachers and direct observations of the child. The behavior should be extreme and must have appeared before the age of 12, and have been present for longer than 6 months. The child’s behavior should be consistent in a variety of settings, for example at school and at home.
How to cope?
Well, you don’t. Just kidding.
Firstly, this is out of your child’s control, and, secondly, definitely out of your control, so do not try and control the condition. You can, however, manage it:
- Medication. Once your child is clinically diagnosed, you can let them take medication that curbs the symptoms, somewhat.
- Food! Symptoms can be managed if a good diet is maintained. They also need to drink plenty of water each day.
- Children have to get enough sleep, so curb the late night TV. Tough love!
- All children need to exercise; however, it is extremely helpful for a child with ADHD.
- They need social support, by avoiding negativity. They already have a problem and it can be escalated if it is not accepted or tolerated. Children with ADHD are the ones who talk constantly in class, those who get up to mischief at home and do not follow instructions. Punishing them might worsen the symptoms. It is therefore vital to choose an appropriate manner to discipline.
- Clear instructions have to be given. Use shorter sentences or divide the instructions into smaller steps to make the directive easier. Using long sentences could confuse the child and when they don’t know what to do, chances are they will find something destructive to do.
- Routine is essential. Developing a routine helps the child compartmentalize and prepare for what is to come. Being comfortable is very important to them. Repeat often, if necessary. This applies to homework, supper time and bedtimes.
- Lastly, parents have to MODEL the appropriate behavior. Do not take it for granted that your child knows how to behave. You need to show them.
Children are waiting for approval most of the time. Shouting at a child for symptoms out of his or her control is not going to improve the situation. This does not mean that you allow him or her to get away with anything. Discipline has to be maintained, but find a way of doing it that does not make your child feel dejected and despondent. Remember, this condition is tough on all parties, including your child. Explain to him or her why their behavior is wrong and try to use positive reinforcement. Praise him or her when they do what you ask. This will likely motivate them to continue doing the right thing.
If this is too much information and you don’t know how to cope, just dream! Yes, you heard me… DREAM!
D – Follow a strict and healthy DIET.
R – ROUTINE is essential.
E – Children need to EXERCISE often, to burn excess energy.
A – ACCEPT that it is not their fault, and accept them as they are.
M – MODEL the appropriate behavior, so that they can learn from you.
Before you start pulling out your hair and biting your nails, remember that ADHD is extremely common. It is tough to deal with, but it’s not the end of the world. Management is key. Tolerance is vital! Routine is essential!
Remember to motivate them and encourage them to do the right thing or act in an appropriate manner by using positive reinforcement. Steer away from NEGATIVITY and focus on what they are doing right. (I’m not saying ignore the bad, but try not to ONLY focus on that). Do not allow ADHD to become a crutch or an excuse for bad behavior. In this article, I mentioned many ways to cope with it, so that it can be improved. Accept that it’s not their fault, but do not accept the behavior.
Oh and another thing. Once ADHD is well managed, it should not stop your child from being capable of anything! One of the most intelligent people in the world had ADHD.
“Yes it’s me! Albert Einstein!”
So if you think your child could have ADHD or a teacher suspects that your child could have ADHD, have him/her diagnosed as soon as possible so that they can have a better and healthier life, and then, so can you…