- Create an At-Home Rewards System. Develop a list of tasks (be specific) that your child must complete each day (homework; gathering the recyclables; etc.) Then decide upon the reward. If your child is very young, consider filling a jar with small prizes such as colored pencils, stickers and the like. Let your child select one prize each day if he accomplishes all of the tasks on his list. If he accomplishes only three of the four tasks, for example, tell him he did a good job but that he must complete all four tasks to get the reward (this really worked for my son!). If your child is older, consider other rewards, i.e., a trip to the zoo or to a movie on Saturday.
- Get Professional Help. Consider working with a psychologist to learn parenting skills that can be particularly helpful for children with ADHD. If your child is developing negative ways of interacting with family members, consider family counseling to try and turn things around. Everyone's self-esteem is bound to benefit.
- Connect With Other Parents. Many communities have created organizations to help parents of children with ADHD (known as CHADD [Chapter of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder]). These groups can be enormously helpful. Not only do you feel supported, you can pick up effective tips and strategies that have worked for other parents. Ask your child's doctor if there's a CHADD in your community.
- Take Care of Yourself. The challenges of ADHD can be taxing. Find positive outlets to keep your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual life in balance. Regular exercise is one great outlet.
- Focus on the Positive. With proper education, structure, coaching and medication, the prognosis for kids with ADHD is good. It's also important to realize that kids with ADHD often exhibit these prominent, positive traits: creativity, warmheartedness, trusting attitude, forgiving attitude, ability to take risks (a double-edged sword, to be sure), flexibility and tenacity.
The steps I've taken — and continue to take with Aaron — have helped him to shine both at home and in school. It's when I receive report cards such as this that I know I'm on the right track: "It is such a pleasure having Aaron in our class. He has made outstanding progress since the beginning of the school year. Aaron has become an excellent student who loves school! We will continue to work together so that Aaron is successful in all areas! Keep up the great job!"
Isn't that perfect?
Donna Engelgau is the former editorial director of Discovery Health Online and the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.