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How to Help Your ADHD Child

Psychotherapist and child development specialist Margery Fridstein gives parenting strategies on raising a child with ADHD.

You suspect your child is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). You look the symptoms up on the web; you talk to the teacher; the behavior at home is driving you crazy; eventually you talk to the doctor. There is no simple blood test for this neurobiological disorder, so young boy frustrated with homework special needsto get more information for a diagnosis your doctor may recommend that you consult with a mental health professional. Sometimes a child that appears to be ADHD is not ADHD, but rather reacting emotionally to the stresses in his or her family life.

An accurate diagnosis is the first step in helping your child. Girls are sometime harder to diagnose than boys because their lack of hyperactivity makes them less noticeable as a problem. The second step is to develop a workable treatment plan.

It's hard parenting an ADHD child. Don't let anyone tell you it isn't. As a parent you need to find strategies that are appropriate for your special child. Many ADHD kids are extremely distractible, often recklessly impulsive and so hyperactive that sitting still is almost impossible. However, never forget that they are wonderful and someday may be hugely successful, but living with them and helping them grow up is demanding. If it's any help, you're not alone. According to pediatrician Michael Reiff's research, 6% to 9% of the American school age population has this disorder. We now know that it's likely if a child is ADHD, that one of their parents were diagnosed or undiagnosed with ADHD when they were growing up. We once thought that this was a childhood problem but we now know that ADHD stays with a person throughout life.

In my long career as a psychotherapist and child development specialist I find there are three forms of parental approaches once ADHD has been diagnosed. One group of parents oppose medication and seeks only behavioral solutions; another group clamors for medication, even for preschool kids who are too young to be medicated, and then expects the medicine to miraculously solve all the problems. The approach I recommend is to follow your doctor's medication recommendation, offer your child a structured home life and be an advocate for your child at school and in the community. It may be helpful to work with a mental health professional who can help the family offer the necessary structure and work one to one with your child to help him better deal with the stresses of being ADHD.

I recommend these parenting strategies:

  • Be proactive in finding a classroom teacher that understands the needs of your child.
  • At home give one command at a time--ADHD kids lack the ability to pay attention to a series of commands.
  • Written lists of daily expectations are helpful.
  • Be sure your child has a binder and uses it for school assignments.
  • Prepare your child when you are taking him into a social situation--offer a reward for good behavior--clearly state the consequences for non compliance--have him review the plan for you--give the reward immediately after the event.
  • Be aware of Dr. Edward Hallowell's offer of encouragement. Dr. Hallowell is a noted authority on ADHD, the author of Driven To Distraction, and other books. "Although ADHD can generate a host of problems, there are also advantages...such as high energy, intuitiveness, creativity, and enthusiasm, and they are completely overlooked by the 'disorder' model. The disorder didn't keep me from becoming a doctor, and it hasn't kept many others from far greater success in a wide variety of fields."


Margery Fridstein is a private practice psychotherapist, currently in private practice in Denver, Colorado. She previously worked in Glencoe, Illinois and Aspen, Colorado. Margery holds degrees from Northwestern University and Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.


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Author: Margery Fridstein is a private practice psychotherapist, currently in private practice in Denver, Colorado. She previously worked in Glencoe, Illinois and Aspen, Colorado. Margery holds degrees from Northwestern University and Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. See More

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