When children struggle to pay attention and stay focused, it is frustrating for both the adults and the children!
Here are five simple but important strategies you can implement right now to help kids with ADHD and associated problems. They can be used at home and school, will reduce stress, and increase success for you and your child!
- Get attention first – Yelling and repeating yourself aren’t fun for you or your child. But you may feel like this is the only way to get your child to listen to you. You can avoid this by making sure you have your child’s attention before you start talking. Get physically closer, get down on their level, or put your hand on their hand or shoulder to help them shift attention to you. Once they are focused on you, that is the time to say what you need to say.
- Take breaks – Kids with ADHD and related challenges are working much harder to focus and do what they need to do at home and school. As a result, their brains need more breaks to recharge throughout the day. You will find that giving breaks before tasks that require more mental focus, like homework, improves their ability to get these things done. When working on longer assignments or tasks (like cleaning their room), give short breaks throughout to allow their brains to relax for a few minutes.
- Allow processing time – Allow your child time to think things through, especially when they are challenging or emotionally charged. Kids with ADHD tend to be impulsive, and this can lead them to respond inappropriately. Giving them information to consider, but discuss later, gives them practice with thinking things through and not responding immediately. This will also help them stay more emotionally and behaviorally regulated when talking about issues they would rather avoid.
- Let them move – Movement helps the brain function better, and this is especially true for children who have ADHD. While playing outside, jumping on the trampoline, or running around are good ways to get movement, there are smaller but effective ways to allow kids to move during tasks like school work, extracurricular events, religious services, or even dinner time. Let them stand, fidget with small items in their hands, pace, jump in place, or use stretchy exercise bands with feet or hands to get some contained movement and calming deep pressure.
- Spotlight the positive – Kids with ADHD tend to be on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and correction throughout the day, which can lead to poor self-esteem and a desire to give up. When we intentionally point out the things we see them doing well it reinforces those positive behaviors and lets them know that we see them trying. When mistakes do occur, state them calmly and clearly without getting emotional about it. Reinforce the idea that everyone makes mistakes, and the goal is to learn from them and try to do better next time.
These simple strategies help improve some of the common struggles kids with ADHD face, while also allowing helping them feel good about themselves and experience success in the process.
Have you used any of these tips with your own children or kids you work with? If you have other ideas that have worked for you feel free to share them in the comments!