Healthy Kids     Early Education     K-12    

ADHD: Focusing on the positive

5 ways to make your ADHD child feel special

Living with a child who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can often strain the parent-child relationship. For parents of kids with ADHD, so many interactions are negative. Parents’ vocabularies are filled with “Don’t do that!” “Stop that!” “Be quiet!” “Leave your sister alone!” and so on. All that negativity and stress can erode the parent-child bond, or leave a parent thinking there’s no hope to forge a deep, positive relationship.

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But it’s a lot easier for parents to repair and strengthen the parent-child bond than some might think. These simple tricks will make your child feel special, and help to cement a strong parent-child bond.

1. Schedule quality time

Spend time with your child alone doing something he or she enjoys, as opposed to what you’d like to do.

“This is where we parents need to take one for the team,” says Lynne A. Edris, an ADD/ADHD life coach in the Harrisburg, PA, area. “It’s more important to focus on the child’s interests than on the parent’s, or even on finding that common interest.”

As little as five minutes each day sitting with your child while he plays video games, builds with Legos, reads a book or does whatever activity he enjoys, builds his self-esteem and lets him know you’re interested in his hobbies.

Don’t forget to look for things to praise, suggests Edris. Statements like, “I love how you stay so focused while you’re playing this game” or “I’m amazed at how you knew exactly which Lego piece you wanted, and you were so patient until you found it” help ensure a positive environment the two of you can share.

2. Focus on the positive

Often kids with ADHD receive a lot of attention when they engage in unwanted behavior. Shining a light on positive behavior helps the two of you forge a healthy relationship.

Catch your child “doing the right thing” and praise him or her for it,” suggests Julie Zweig, a child psychologist in Woodstock. “The child’s behavior will begin to shape around getting attention and approval from you for appropriate behavior.”

Praising positive behavior will develop a pattern of positive communication and exchanges that can become the foundation for a strong relationship.

“Even the tiniest of good behavior should be praised,” adds Zweig.

3. Get out of the house

A change of scenery gives you the chance to build the memory of exploring together. Take the scenic route home from sports practice and talk about the difference in the route versus your usual path. Or ask your child to accompany you on a scavenger hunt in a grocery store.

“Look for activities you can do alone with your child during short pockets of time, even if the two of you just grab an ice cream cone and chat for a few minutes on your way home from their sports practice,” says Edris.

You could also go for a walk together and look for things outside. If you are surrounded by nature, look for sticks, stones, flowers. Use them to build a little work of art by arranging them on the ground in front of your house or make a collage with glue on a piece of cardboard. Hang the picture or collage somewhere as a reminder of your special time together.

4. Take a virtual vacation

Go on an imaginary trip together, suggests Connie Hammer, a certified parent coach and founder of The Progressive Parent.

Look at a map to decide where in the world you want to travel. Go to the library together to look up facts about this place, using books and/or the Internet. Do a craft related to the country or create and enjoy a typical meal from that country.

5. Be realistic

Hammer says it’s important to set realistic blocks of time for all of these activities based on your child’s ability to pay attention. “As your child is able to maintain focus, praise him or her specifically for effort and add another minute to the next special time you share together,” she says.

And remember, spending time together is not about spending money.

“When you share special times with your child you can be certain that it will have a positive impact and be something both of you can always feel good about,” says Zweig.

Gina Roberts-Grey writes about parenting issues for Hudson Valley Parent and scores of other regional and national magazines. Follow her on Twitter @GinaRobertsGrey.