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7 Tips for Parenting Children with ADHD and Anxiety

Parenting children with ADHD and/or anxiety can be challenging as the new school year is underway.

We are all dealing with uncertainty, changes in our schedules, and having to adapt to new ways of doing things. Recognize that your child is also experiencing stress as they are having to adapt to new learning routines.

Many of us have lost the ability to predict how our day, week, or school year will look like and this uncertainty leads to feeling stressed. Stress negatively impacts learning in children with ADHD and anxiety, making it very difficult to learn new things. 

We can help our children during this time with the following tips.

1. Take care of yourself.

We are all dealing with uncertainty, it’s not just difficult for our children with ADHD, parents, teachers, and administrators are all impacted.  Recognize your own levels of stress during this time and be sure to increase ways to calm your own anxiety by referring to our previous blog post, Three Tips to Calm Anxiety.    

Not only do our children learn through our role modeling healthy behaviors, we cannot be our best if we do not look at to our own levels of stress and make self-care a priority.  

2. Start with the basics

All too often we forget or discount the very basics of self-care and the impact on our child’s well-being.  When faced with challenging behaviors, increased anxieties, moodiness, or difficulty in adherence to routines and tasks, ask yourself the following questions first, and be sure to make any adjustments or resolve any issues.

  • Is your child getting a good night’s sleep?
  • Is your child eating enough healthy foods and drinking enough fluids throughout the day?
  • Does your child have any upcoming events like exams or presentations?

Keep lines of communication open to know if they are getting bullied or having social difficulties you may be unaware of.

3. Supportive Communication

While we cannot take away uncertainty, we can support one another.  A good way to support your child during this time is to open conversations about how they may be feeling.  

It is important to set aside time with your child and encourage your child to talk about a range of emotions.  Not all emotions need to be positive.  Give your child time and space to talk about their feelings without rushing in to resolve or minimize their perspective. 

Letting your child know that you feel stress sometimes too will help normalize how they are feeling and encourage a safe place to share with you.

4. Help your child by Co-Regulating

Children with ADHD have a more difficult time with self-regulation.  Temper tantrums, acting out, homework refusal, meltdowns, inability to sit still and concentrate are very common in children with ADHD.

You will likely see an increase in these externalized behaviors with the added changes, uncertainty, and new school format.  Increasing self-regulation is the key to your child’s success in many of these areas.

You can help your child with self-regulation:

  • Children with ADHD tend to get stuck on stressors and cannot see other ways to deal with their emotions. Calmly helping your child name their feelings is the first step helping them find ways to calm themselves.
  • Be consistent and responsive. This teaches your child that they matter and can trust others and their environment.  A feeling of safety is foundational in self-regulation.
  • Role model.  Your ability to self-regulate will also help your child. When you experience strong emotions or overwhelm, think about ways that you self-regulate. 

5. Provide Structure

It is very important to provide an environment that is organized and predictable.  House rules and expectations should be consistent to help your child know what to expect.  All children benefit from this, not just children with ADHD and anxiety!

Structure also means that your family has a routine that supports their schedule of homework time, mealtimes, and bedtime routines. It is also important to help your child have a space that is distraction free to help them focus.  Impulse control is a common symptom of children with ADHD and resisting distractions can be very difficult to regulate on their own.  They will need your help to set up their time and environment to be successful. 

Be sure to identify any necessary supplies that can be readily available to aid in homework completion with minimal disruptions trying to locate items throughout the house.  A kitchen timer also works well to help your child work in structured 25-minute focused increments before taking a 5-minute break. 

6. Reward Efforts

Be sure to use rewards rather than consequences when supporting your child and encouraging motivation.  It is human nature to respond more favorably to rewards versus threats, yelling, or taking away privileges.  Remember your child has a more difficult time regulating their behavior because their brains are wired differently. 

The use of negative consequences will likely add more stress to your child and not produce a mindset of creativity or problem solving.   When rewarding your child, be sure to use language that focuses on their efforts made.  “Wow!  You worked hard on that math problem, well done!” Be intentional with your praise of efforts. 

Give your child eye contact, smile, and be in proximity when delivering praise for efforts.  This is a great opportunity for you to connect with your child as well!

7. Consistency

Creating consistency is very helpful for your child with ADHD to navigate uncertain times like these.  With all the changes they will face with new school format, online learning and assignments, and scheduling, consistency at home can be the place they count on for predictability!

Being consistent with expectations, routines, rewards, etc. will help your child be successful. Morning routines can include check lists of tasks that can be counted on and expected each day.  Children with ADHD do not do well with vague directions, being clear and consistent with expectations is a requirement for success! 

Want to learn about additional treatment options for children with ADHD or Anxiety?