While you may have suspected your child had ADHD, receiving the official diagnosis is a whole other ball game. It’s understandable that you may have a lot of questions — you of course want to do what’s best for your child, but when you’re in uncharted territory, it’s difficult to know which path to take. The good news is, there is no right or wrong way to raise a child with ADHD, partly because every child’s diagnosis and case is different. So, the most important thing you can do for your child (and yourself) is to learn as much as possible about the condition and to follow your gut.
Over the course of your child’s diagnosis, you may hear from others trying to sway you to parent your child a certain way. But at the end of the day, you’re the one who knows your child best, and that means you know what you need to do so they can thrive in any environment and stay confident. It also helps to know you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated number of children diagnosed with ADHD is about six million. That means there are a lot of parents who are or have been in your shoes at one point in time. Below, they offer advice for what parents of kids with ADHD can do ensure they’re providing their kids and themselves with the tools, resources and support to navigate an ADHD diagnosis.
Teach them skills they’ll need to succeed
“My college kid is struggling with ADHD right now. We’ve known he’s had it his whole life. We spoke with his teachers, guidance counselor, and pediatrician about it, but all of them said that unless it was affecting his daily life, to just ignore it. He’s incredibly smart and had enough respect for authority that he sailed through his academics, even in high school when he took advanced placement classes — but then he went to college.
While he could ace high school without paying attention, that meant he learned no skills for studying, list making, reducing distractions, or note taking. And now my almost all A’s kid is a C kid because he never learned how to deal with his ADHD when he was young. So, even if they don’t seem to be struggling now, don’t wait to teach them the study and lifestyle skills they will need to succeed to power through their attention issues.”
— Diane Hoffmaster of Atlanta, Georgia
“I think the biggest tip to share would be to stay patient. This is probably easier for me since I also have ADHD, but I always try to remind myself he isn’t doing this on purpose, his brain literally won’t let him do X, Y, Z. I also try to remind myself (and him) that even though he’s sometimes forgetful or inattentive or can’t retain information, there are many things he’s amazing at.
For example, he’s 11 years old and an awesome drummer. So I tell myself, ‘He didn’t remember to turn the water off after washing his hands, but the kid remembered every single note to Back In Black.’ In the grand scheme of things, what’s more important? I just hope he doesn’t leave the faucet on one day and flood the house.”
— Chris Illuminati of Trenton, New Jersey
Make a checklist for your child
“My daughter has difficulty remembering more than one task at a time. If I ask her to empty the dishwasher and bring down her laundry, she only remembers the first task. We make checklists and hang them on the refrigerator so she can easily access and cross off what she’s already done and see what still needs to be completed.”
— Jenn Mitchell of Boston, Massachusetts
Organize their closest by school days
“Both my oldest child and middle child have ADHD. Their clothing choices can sometimes be quite unique simply because all the choices can become overwhelming. So a great tip I use for getting them dressed is to categorize their closets into school days, play time, special occasion and church. Kids with ADHD want independence just like any other kid, but it comes at a much slower pace sometimes. So setting them up for success with something simple like choosing outfits is a great way to start any morning.”
— Elizabeth Blake-Casano of Starkville, Mississippi, and author of Learning Differently: A Mom’s View of Raising Children with Dyslexia and ADHD
Advocate for your child’s education
“Don’t be afraid to step out of the box and advocate for your ADHD child when it comes to their education. Against everyone’s advice, I chose to pull my daughter from public school and take her education into my own hands. While homeschooling might not be a great idea for every ADHD child it was the perfect solution for mine. Homeschooling is an amazing option for my ADHD child because of the flexibility and ability to tailor her education to her needs, which allowed her to feel more confident while also performing better academically. Had I not been willing to take this leap and give it a try, my child might still be struggling in the public school system.”
— Courtney Blacher of Phoenix, Arizona
Work with a PMT
“One of my best parenting tips is to work with a parent management therapist if you can swing it. Learning to understand how to parent a neurodiverse child was crucial for us. As parents, we need to constantly keep in mind that our son’s brain doesn’t function like a typical 10-year-old brain.”
— Rebecca Ashby of Fairfield, Connecticut