As a parent it can be difficult to ride this ADHD Parenting roller coaster with your kids. I speak from experience when I say some days seem insurmountable. Our patience can be dangerously thin. Our temper can flare and escalate an already not great situation.
We take our kids to countless appointments, advocate for them at school, spend time researching the latest trends, all while loving them through outbursts, complications with friends, and the ups and downs of their many and varied emotional states.
I know you work really hard to make things easier for your ADHD kiddo.
But who is going to Make it easier for us, parents?
But what about us? We search for ways to help our ADHD kids, what about tips and strategies to help us when we are at our worst?
We want to show up in a way that will help our kids, but what exactly should we be doing?How can we maintain our calm and do our best to deal with our ADHD kids when they are struggling the most?
17 Helpful ADHD Parenting Tips
1. Call Your Listening Partner
A listening partner is someone who will listen without judgement, offer help, if asked and lend a fresh perspective to your predicament.
It helps me immensely to just tell someone what is happening, even if it’s the 10th time we’ve talked about the same, darn, thing.
My listening partner knows me well and helps me to view the situation from a different lens. We inevitably find something to chuckle about and I’m back to feeling able to handle the next thing.
Calling my listening partner is my first line of defense. Who is your listening partner?
2. Find a self care practice you’ll actually do
This one isn’t new, you hear it all the time. In fact, you may hear it so much that you actually don’t listen to this advice anymore.
Self care doesn’t have to mean a fancy pedicure or spa visit. In fact, the very mention of those things may turn you off. Most self care ideas are too expensive, and time consuming, really.
Change your mindset 180 degrees when it comes to self care and I bet you’ll find something that you’ll actually do.
Here are some ideas to consider to help you feel more like yourself:
- Take a walk in nature. Even 10 minutes in nature will have a salve-like effect on you or your children – or both!!
- Put headphones on and zone out to music or a podcast for 10 minutes.
- Read a magazine. Maybe even lock yourself in the bathroom to do it.
- Peruse the book section at Goodwill.
- Clean for 10 minutes uninterrupted.(Yes, it can make you feel better to have at least one area clean and uncluttered!)
- Get rid of stuff. Walk around the house and compile a bag for Goodwill. Less stuff equals less stress. Do this for as many days as is necessary. You’ll know when it feels done.
- Do a job your kids hate. For us its weeding (my kids HATE this job), so I’m usually alone in the sunshine.
- Draw for 10 minutes. The concentration and focus this takes makes everything melt away around me.
- Do 10 minutes of Stream of Consciousness writing – write down everything that comes into your mind – a bit of a brain dump, really.
- Listen to a guided meditation on Headspace or Smiling Mind.
- Visit a quiet library and find a good book.
Having a kid who struggles means it’s that much more important to be our best for them.
Taking care of yourself, also helps you to be a model of self-care for your kids. Then, they can see first hand, how vital it is to find and do things that make you happy.
3. Decipher what is behind the behavior
Learning how to “discipline” your adhd child may be the most challenging issue for adhd parents.
Our society is so quick to look at a child’s behavior and label them as stubborn, lazy, defiant, or rude.
When things get tough, I remember that behavior is communication and dig deep to figure out what is trying to be said. For us, that’s revisiting The Explosive Child and doing some collaborative problem solving.
I am firm believer in the adage, “Kids can do well when they can” (Thanks Ross Greene!) Poor behavior is simply their way of communicating.
When things are rough, I know my kids are having a hard time, too.
Neither of my kids are great- YET- at expressing what is bothering them. It comes out as anger, mean words, or defiance.
I have learned over the years that this is my signal to get quiet and listen, give us all some space to cool down, but keep hanging around for when IT finally does come out. ” I’m scared about…….” or “I’m nervous about…..”
There is always something else behind the behavior. Always.
4. Seek professional help
I am not afraid to ask for help. In this day and age, the “stigma” of seeing a therapist has disappeared.
Seeking help for our mental health and emotional well-being is now, almost a given. It took us a few years to finally settle on an amazing therapist – one trained in the Collaborative Problem Solving method that has been so helpful.
Our goal, as much as possible, is to get in front of the behavior whenever possible. With lots of planning and conversations, we can avoid many outbursts before they even start.
4. Realize this is hard for our kids, too
Acknowledging this stage in my kids’ lives is just as difficult for them as being a toddler. Did you know middle schoolers grow and change as much as they did from birth to 2?
Both of my kids have an awareness of their struggles and it can make them feel really bad about themselves.
My compassion for them has to be really obvious and transparent. They need to know someone is on their side – all the time.
Being a kinder, gentler mom at these times can be a struggle, but being a soft, loving place for them to fall is so helpful to us all.
You have to put in the time either way – and wouldn’t you love to fill them up first, rather than put out fires later?
5. Look for progress
As with most things in life, parenting has many different seasons. We may go through a rough patch that lasts an hour, a day, maybe even a week. But we do get past it, every time.
“This too, shall pass,” as my father always says.
When things are tough, I can look back over the year and see improvement – lots of it. We are moving in the right direction – perhaps not as fast as I’d like, but we will all get thru this. and be better for it in the end.
I often read through our ADHD Story and see just how far we’ve come.
I see progress in my own parenting and in my children’s behavior.
I have so much more compassion for my son’s sensitivities and anxiety. We are letting my son set his boundaries with his comfort level , not where I think he should be for his chronological age, which leads us to……
6. Stop shoulding all over yourself
I struggle all the time with thinking that because my boys are nearly teenagers they should be able to do this or that. They should be able to do their chores without being reminded, or brush their teeth well or put themselves to bed.
This kind of shoulding is so unproductive. My kids are who they are and are doing the best they can at any moment. ADHD is a developmental condition, so my kids fall behind their typically developing peers in some big ways.
Again, this is when I look for progress! Things are moving forward.
I need to honor my kids timeline and meet them were they are.
So, I’m looking at them still needing me as a gift – the gift of caring for them for a little bit longer.
Related: Our ADHD Story
7. Uncover YOUR Part in This
Having gone thru years of therapy myself, I have learned to turn the finger back around and point it at myself.
What is my part in this?
Our reactions, as parents, have so much to do with what happens next.
How do my reactions to my sons’ behavior affect the outcome? How can I more positively affect the situation?
What childhood wounds do I have that might be contributing to this? How can I heal myself so that my child can be healed?
This is HUGE for me. the more I work on myself, the better it is for my family.
We just need to slow down, take time and take a closer look at what our kid might be stirring up inourselves.
My own mother died when I was 4, leaving a huge wound that I covered up for most of my life. With the birth of my first son, it all came rushing in…the fear of losing someone close to me is immense. I am sure I passed this anxiety on to him.
I’ve been in and out of therapy, myself for years. And as I heal myself, my son’s anxiety lessens. I am learning to have an enormous amount of compassion for the both of us – I need it as much as he does….
8. Have Compassion for yourself
I tell myself that this parenting gig is hard. Kids don’t come with rule books. Every parent faces challenges. I am doing the best I can at any moment. We all are.
Parenting is a journey full of ups and downs and lots of learning.
Yes, I’ve lost my sh%t when I wish I hadn’t.
The reality is, we are all human.
Having compassion for myself and acknowledging that I am not a perfect parent is one thing I am working on.
9. Make a deposit to the Karma Bank
Whenever I am feeling
crazy unsettled, I take the focus off myself and do something good for someone else.
This has been a practice of mine for years – way before kids and husband, even.
I bring coffee to my co-workers, pay for the next person in line at Starbucks, or hide a 5 dollar bill in the eggs at the grocery store.
It’s fun to surprise someone and make their day, no matter how small the gesture.
When I help someone else, I put my problems into perspective and it can be so incredibly healing. Everyone is struggling with something. Everyone.
I’ve made this a practice with my kids, too. We love to go to our local thrift store (where we are frequent shoppers, ourselves) and hide dollar bills inside books and shoes. It’s so fun to be sneaky with some goodness in mind!
10. Make Time for Connection
I find that when I make time to connect with my kids, the behaviors associated with ADHD diminish drastically and everyone has an easier time.
Has this been your experience, too?
ADHD kiddos may not experience connection with their peers or at school, so finding time to connect as a family or just one on one with your kiddo is so vital.
I know, I know, you’re busy.
But finding time to connect with your kid will be something that they’ll remember 10 years from now.
We can’t have those great moments of connection with our kids unless we slow down.
Really slow down.
Our family has what others might see as a ridiculously early bedtime….we start the process at about 6:30. The kids take showers, brush teeth, sit for reflex movements, etc…..but it affords lots of face to face time with our kids.
It is one of the best times of the day and one I can count on – and my kids can count on, too. This is a great time for conversations to start and important feelings to be expressed.
A long, slow bedtime has forever been part of our family rhythm that will continue as long as we can.
Where can you work a bit of regular connection into your day? Is it during a mealtime? Right after school? Or at bedtime, like us?
11. Support your ADHD child’s interests
Unfortunately, ADHD kids often get reprimanded for all the things they can’t do right.
Like 20,000 times before they are 10, say some reports.
As a mother of 2 ADHD boys and a teacher, I feel like these stats are all too correct.
This is why it is so important for ADHD kids to be able to pursue an interest – something that brings lots more positives than negatives.
There is nothing more confidence boosting and life giving than pursuing a personal interest. Making time for your child and allowing them to explore their own interests is so valuable for their growth and emotional well-being.
For my own kids, it’s drawing, playing an instrument, and learning about WW 2 airplanes. I support them by having lots of art supplies at home, paying for music lessons, and making multiple trips to the library each week.
What interest of your ADHD kiddo can you support?
12. Simplify your schedule, home, and life!
As a Simplicity Parent Family Life Coach, I eat, sleep and breathe keeping things simple.
When our lives get too full – of commitments, and stuff – we all get a bit out of whack.
Keeping things simple has a top down effect on our family. when mama’s calm everybody is calm.
But, I’d also argue that the entire family benefits from putting even a few of these simplifiers in place.
Maybe some of the things I do can help you:
- Keep activities to a minimum 1 or 2 for each kid at any given time.
- One day of the weekend remains completely free of commitments
- I serve a few healthy favorite meals over and over.
- Snacks are primarily nuts, fruit and veggies.
- Rotate toys so there are only a few options at a time.
- Rotate books for the same reason.
- Keep only clothes that are worn in each family members bedroom. Store out of season clothes elsewhere and donate clothes that don’t fit.
- Keep decor simple. The less you have to dust, the better.
- Practice the one in, one out rule for all family members.
- Give experiences rather than things.
13. Educate yourself about ADHD
I am a big reader. Finding a few good books about parenting ADHD has helped me immensely.
Whether I need to get advice, new recipes for an ADHD Diet, a quick tip or a gentle reminder, having a few great books that resonate with your parenting style can be invaluable.
My favorites rotate with what’s present for us, of course. Currently, Differently Wired, by Debbie Reber, Raising Will, by Katherine Quie, Listen , by Patti Wipfler and Being at Your Best When Your Kids Are at Their Worst, by Kim John Payne are on my bedside table.
14. Stick to an ADHD diet
Sticking to an ADHD diet is our backbone. I can really tell when my kids are veering too much from our usual, healthy diet.
Their behavior and their sugar cravings let me know we’ve gotten off course.
So when things start to go south, I make sure we are eating super healthy food every chance we get. I can’t control the pizza parties at school, but I can make sure I help my kids pack a great lunch and serve lots of fruits and veggies at home.
I’m also uber vigilant about our supplements.
In our long journey with ADHD, I have seen countless examples of how food can affect my kids behaviors. As they get older and have to make decisions without me standing next to them, it’s evermore important to keep up our healthy routine at home. Modeling a behavior is the best way to affect their decisions!
15. Get a good night’s sleep
“Sleep is the best medicine,” said every relative I ever had over the age of 60.
It’s certainly been true for my kids and it’s true for me, too.
I do everything I can to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. That means finding time to exercise, taking a magnesium supplement nightly, shutting off screens before bed and keeping the same routine at night.
It takes work, but I know I am not as patient and kind if I don’t get enough rest.
16. Stay Positive and Enjoy the Ride
Humans are wired to be negative-for survival reasons, so it takes some work to look on the bright side.
I make a conscious effort to keep looking for the good stuff – and it’s there. Even on the toughest of days, there are moments to grab onto.
What we focus on expands. So when I stop and make note of these moments of calm, grace, joy, or hilarity, they really do seem to multiply. My kids are an enormous gift to me and to the world!!
We have been loving The Big Life Journal – Teen Edition. It does take some effort to get my boys to sit and work on it, but I sit with them and spend 5 to 10 minutes on a few pages and the mood is always better when we are done. Learning to have a growth mindset is a skill that will serve them for their entire lives.
17. When all else fails ADHD Parenting Tips:
If everyone is safe, go outside and walk around the house a few times.
Look at a sweet baby picture of your ADHD kiddo. I keep one in the kitchen.
Take deep breathes, breathing out for longer than you breathe in. It resets the brain.
Put everyone in separate rooms – including yourself – and wait for the storm to pass.
We’d Love to hear from you!!!
Take a moment to comment about what you do to get through a rough patch of ADHD Parenting.
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