Raising a child who has ADD or ADHD brings more ups and downs than a roller coaster. One day you're basking in your child's creativity, and the next you're worried about his social isolation and problems at school. You do everything you can to help your son or daughter, yet you wonder if you could still do more.
This new year, take stock of your child's life at home and at school — and how you think you are doing as her parent. How can you create an environment that helps your special, wonderful child overcome the obstacles in her path? What does it take to be a good — even great — parent of an ADHD child? Here are four strategies that could make the difference this year:
Parents should create an environment in which kids feel part of something big and benevolent. Reading to your child is a great way to do this. Sharing a bedtime story each evening (and doing a little cuddling in the process) creates a unique, "slowed-down" time together. Don't assume you have to give up this ritual once your child is reading on his own, either.
Now that the holidays are over, encourage continued contact between your child and his extended family. Frequent visits or calls from relatives extend a net of warmth and caring around your child. One research study shows that the single best predictor of happiness in adulthood is whether a person regularly shared family dinners when growing up.
During the school year, it can be easy for parents to focus only on the behavioral problems associated with ADD — such as losing things, forgetting to turn in homework and being easily frustrated. But constantly harping on your child's shortcomings only undermines her self-confidence and optimism.
During the second half of the school year and from now on, try focusing on the positives for a change. What is it that your son does well? What hidden — or not-so-hidden — strengths does your daughter have? For example, one mom used to say that her ADD daughter had trouble seeing the fish in the aquarium at the doctor's office because she was so fascinated by the tiny fish eggs clinging to one leaf of an aquatic plant. That daughter now hopes to use her eye for the unusual to launch a career in fashion design.