There’s a lot of advice out there on parenting a child with ADHD. But what if you and your child have attention issues? What then?
I’m the mom of two smart, terrific kids with attention issues. (One, my daughter, has ADHD and three learning differences.) I also have my own learning and thinking differences. In fact, when I was 40, I was evaluated to understand why I struggle with focus and organization.
Today, I’m discovering more about how I learn and process information best—right alongside my kids. Here are some of the tips I’ve picked up along my journey.
Tip #1: Understand how ADHD affects you and your child.
Tip #2: Don’t expect more from your child than you do from yourself.
One day, my daughter and I had about our hundredth fussing session about how messy her room was.
Afterwards, I walked into my bedroom and almost tripped over the pile of clothes outside my own closet door. The irony hit me almost literally in the face. With kids, it’s so important to practice what you preach. This sometimes means trying to first address your challenges before theirs.
Tip #3: Draw on your lifetime of experience with ADHD.
I’ve spent years managing the everyday challenges of attention issues. That helps me understand what my daughter’s going through.
For example, I know she needs to listen to music when she cleans her room. How? Because it’s just like how I need to listen to an audiobook when I’m doing laundry. I also know it helps when she gets extra praise because I need positive feedback too.
Tip #4: Trade tips and strategies with your child.
Have you figured out something that helps you with your ADHD? Share it with your child!
For instance, I’ve discovered I’m much more productive when I take short “moving” breaks while I’m working—even just for a minute or two. I’ve shared that with my daughter. Now, she takes “bounce” breaks on a mini trampoline when she’s doing homework or reading.
By the same token, don’t be afraid to learn from your child. Maybe she can tell you about the newest smartphone apps for staying organized.
Tip #5: Create systems and plans for hang-ups.
If you have attention issues, you’re going to have hang-ups. So you have to plan for them.
For me, school papers, mail and clutter are really hard for me to keep up with. Things tend to pile up. I know that I have to physically see important papers and bills to remember to take care of them. So I use a system that includes see-through bins, open baskets and mini chalkboard labels to mark what’s what. This “see it” system works well for my kids, too.
Tip #6: Set up a schedule, but give yourself grace in following it.
You’re often told that a good way to help your child with ADHD is to have a set schedule. But if you have learning and thinking differences, making and following schedules can be tricky.
So yes, set up a schedule. But give yourself the freedom to switch things up if the schedule itself is overwhelming. You need space to make mistakes and learn as you go. This tip goes for all your systems—don’t be too hard on yourself.
Tip #7: Outsource the hard stuff.
I always read that parents of kids with ADHD need to be super organized. We’re encouraged to have a file for doctor notes, school papers and everything else.
But I struggle with organization, especially files and papers! A lot of times when I read this advice, I feel defeated before I can even begin.
So here’s a tip—outsource parenting tasks that are difficult or take too much time. Recently, I heard about an idea to hire someone to organize paperwork for you (kind of like you hire a CPA to do your taxes). That sounds like a great investment of time and money!
Tip #8: Learn what you can from others.
Lastly, remember you’re not alone!
A lot of parents struggle with their own attention issues. Try to connect and learn from other parents about what works.
And in that spirit, if you have a parenting tip you’d like to share with me or with others, please do so in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.
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About the author
Lyn Pollard is a writer and mom to two kids who learn differently.