Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects between 3% and 7% of school-aged children. It is the most common neurobehavioral diagnosis among children for nearly 1 in 10 children ages 4 through 17. Symptoms, which often interfere with development, include persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Whether you suspect your child has ADHD or has already been diagnosed, there are steps you can take to help support your entire family.
1. Get an accurate diagnosis: It’s important to work with healthcare professionals who can accurately determine whether your child has ADHD or something else. Other health conditions, such as thyroid disorders and developmental disabilities, can cause similar behavioral problems. These conditions should be ruled out to help establish the best course of treatment. “If you think your child is having behavioral issues, it’s important that you speak with someone who is best trained to make an ADHD diagnosis, such as a child psychiatrist or psychologist,” recommends Phil Chappell, MD, Executive Director of Pfizer.
2. Educate yourself: Once your child is diagnosed with ADHD, it’s important for both you and your child to learn about the disorder. Knowing what causes and contributes to ADHD symptoms can help remove some of the blame that children and adults often place on themselves. “People need to understand that this is a genetic, neurologic disorder that is not caused by bad parenting,” says Dr. Chappell. Just be sure you’re getting your facts from credible organizations such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD).
3. Work with your child’s school: “A child’s only job in life is to learn, so it’s important that they’re able to do that to the best of their ability,” says Donna Palumbo, PhD, Director of Clinical Sciences at Pfizer, Inc. A child with ADHD can greatly benefit from the right educational placement and individualized support. Parents can help by requesting exactly what their child needs.
4. Shift Expectations: Re-define success and set expectations that align with your values. Think about the goals your child can reach and make sure you give them plenty of encouragement. It may take a little longer to get there, but make that okay for you and your child.
5. Develop a long-term, holistic approach to managing the condition: From the very beginning, caring for someone with ADHD requires a long-term plan. After all, 60% of children with ADHD go on to have symptoms of the condition as adults. “The long-term prognosis for children who are diagnosed with ADHD and do not receive treatment is not good,” says Dr. Palumbo. “Choosing not to treat a child with ADHD is not a decision that should be made lightly.” You should also keep in mind that any chosen course of treatment should also be adaptable. As a child with ADHD grows older and moves from one setting to another, their care will need to be adjusted to keep them on the right track toward managing the condition.
6. Manage the Behaviors: Consciously shape your child’s understanding and acceptance of themselves. Discussing the importance of taking responsibility for behaviors may ultimately help your child learn to be more independent.
7. Take Care of Yourself: Seek support for yourself, not just for your child. Whether it’s a coach, a therapist, a support group, an online class or a really clued-in best friend, you’ll find greater success and enjoyment when you feel connected to others who really understand.
8. Parent positively: Identify your child’s strengths and encourage them. Focus on what they are doing well, instead of constantly correcting their mistakes. Believe in them, and they’ll believe in themselves.
- 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and statistics. Accessed: October 2, 2015.
- 2. American Academy of Pediatrics. ADHD: clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 16 October 2011: 128(5); 1-16.
- 3. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.
- 4. Krull KR. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Clinical features and evaluation. UpToDate Web site. Accessed: August 29, 2013.
- 5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about ADHD. Accessed: August 29, 2013.
- 6. Cortese S. The neurobiology and genetics of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): What every clinician should know. Eur J Paediatr Neurol. September 2012; 16(5): 422-33.
- 7. National Resource Center on AD/HD. IDEA (the individuals with disabilities education act). Accessed: September 3, 2013.
- 8. Taylor-Klaus E. My favorite parenting tips. Making Moments Web site. Accessed: May 12, 2014.
- 9. Barkley RA, Fischer M, Smallish L, Fletcher K. The persistence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder into young adulthood as a function of reporting source and definition of disorder. J Abnorm Psychol. May 2002; 111(2): 279-289.
- 10. Harpin VA. The effect of ADHD on the life of an individual, their family, and community from preschool to adult life. Arch Dis Child. 2005; 90(Suppl I): i2-i7.
- 11. Weiss G, Hechtman L, Milroy T, Perlman T. Psychiatric status of hyperactives as adults: A controlled prospective 15-year follow-up of 63 hyperactive children. J Am Acad Child Psychiatry. March 1985; 24(2): 211-220.
- 12. Jones K, Daley D, Hutchings J, et. al. Efficacy of the incredible years basic parent training programme as an early intervention for children with conduct problems and ADHD. Child Care Health Dev. 5 June 2007: 33(6): 749-756.
- 13. National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Psychological interventions and parent training. In: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Diagnosis and management of ADHD in children, young people and adults. Leicester, UK: British Psychological Society (UK); 2009.
- 14. Tartakovsky M. Parenting kids with ADHD: 16 tips to tackle common challenges. Psych Central Web site. Accessed: September 6, 2013.