Today’s guest post is with Angela. I like to discuss and read about other’s viewpoints on many different topics, and share them when I can. Angela’s post discusses how to help your child with ADHD without medications. I believe that children can be fine without medications, but in some cases, it’s a necessity. I did like her post a lot, and hopefully you can find something that works for you.
How to Help Your Child with ADHD Without Medication
When I worked as a Child and Adolescent Therapist before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I met a lot of parents who were hesitant to put their child with ADHD on medication for various reasons. I also heard many situations in which parents stopped their child’s medication altogether.
Whether the kids I worked with were on medication or not, it was my job to give them and their parents the tools they needed to increase their chances for success.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that using medication as a form of treatment is bad. I’m simply sharing with you other tips and treatment options you can refer to either as a supplement to medication or in place of medication.
As with other mental or physical health problems, it’s really hard to treat the condition without working on the underlying problems. Therefore, there are important behavioral tips that parents can work with their children on so that their kids can be successful.
But before getting into those tips, let’s first take a look at what ADHD is.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The onset of symptoms usually occurs before the age of 7.
ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder that may cause your child to have difficulty with academics and controlling his behavior in educational or social settings. Children with ADHD may have a hard time paying attention or following directions, may be overactive, and might have poor impulse control.
According to the most recent diagnostic manual used by mental health clinicians, children may be diagnosed with a specified type of ADHD, based on which symptoms they present with most of the time. These 3 types include: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined.
In other words, you may notice that not all children with ADHD are exactly the same. But here are some tips that will help regardless of which type of symptoms you tend to see.
Non-Medication Tips for Parents of Children with ADHD
Give your child praise and positive attention.
You want to catch your child when he is being “good” and praise him immediately. Remember to praise your child throughout an entire task whenever he is doing something that is often difficult for him. You also want to communicate to your child that you love and support him unconditionally, regardless of problems he may be having with school or behavior.
Establish routines and schedules for your child.
This is especially important for kids with ADHD. Try to set a schedule for mornings, mealtimes, homework, leisure time, and going to bed. Also, try to establish a consistent homework routine. And don’t let your child push back homework until late in the evening.
Be clear and concise when stating rules and demands.
You want your child to know exactly what your expectations are. So try to avoid phrasing demands as questions or giving too much information when you give a demand.
Give one task or step of directions to your child at a time.
When a task requires multiple steps, it can help to use a visual aid with pictures or to create a short list. Making small lists can help your child remember the expectations and is also an important skill that he will carry with him into adulthood.
Use rewards for tasks and behaviors that are consistently troublesome.
If your child struggles with something consistently, consider using rewards for good behavior instead of punishing the bad behavior. Rewards are more likely to spark motivation. Using a reward chart can help keep you on track with your reward system and can allow your child to see his progress. If you’re interested in trying out a reward chart for things like homework or bedtime, check out my free Reward Chart Bundle here!
Stay in tune with what your child needs in the evenings.
You might notice a change in your child’s mood or behavior in the late afternoon or evening, which could create problems with homework, listening, or getting along with siblings. So consider what your child might need. Perhaps your child needs some relaxation time, or perhaps he needs to release some energy through physical activity.
Follow these additional homework time tips.
Reduce distractions, including noises, other people, and television. Give your child scheduled breaks. You may help your child by correcting some critical homework errors in a supportive way, but keep in mind that you’re not really supposed to perfect your child’s homework assignments. Break homework tasks down into smaller steps. Also, consider using a folder or sheet of paper to give your child “tunnel vision,” and cover parts of the assignment that he’s not working on. This will help to improve focus.
Teach your child study skills.
Parents sometimes see report card grades worsen around 3rd or 4th grade, which is around the time in which kids are expected to take more tests in school and studying becomes more important. Therefore, work on teaching your child how to study for tests. And be sure to schedule study time for your child.
Encourage a nutritious diet and avoid caffeine.
A good diet is more likely to improve symptoms than a bad diet. Now, I’ve had several teens swear to me that caffeine helps to calm them down and improve their focus. And yes, caffeine is a stimulant (stimulant medications are often prescribed to treat ADHD). But it’s important to be aware of its potential adverse effects. For one, not getting proper nutrients and consuming caffeine can cause irritability. And trust me, irritability and impulsivity are not a good combination. So try to encourage your child healthy habits when it comes to your child’s diet.
Work with your child’s school.
Be sure to communicate with your child’s teacher(s) so you know what’s expected of your child and where your child is struggling. Be sure to ask about available services, such as tutoring. And don’t be afraid to request a meeting with the school staff to come up with an action plan for your child’s education and behavior.
Stay informed about ADHD.
Read up on ADHD as much as you can so that you know what to expect. This also helps you know what options you have when it comes to things like academics.
Join a community or online support group.
This can allow you to get feedback from other parents who have kids with similar diagnoses. It gives you someone to talk to and can give you ideas for how to handle specific problems your child may be having.
Be sure to point out your child’s strengths and build on them.
Knowing what your child’s strengths and interests are can help you build up his self-esteem and come up with creative ways to improve other skills. And focusing on your child’s strengths will help both you and your child avoid focusing so much on the negative aspects of his diagnosis.
Other Treatment Options for ADHD
Therapy is a great treatment option if your child has ADHD. Therapists can work with you as the parent to help you understand and work on ADHD symptoms. They can also work you’re your child on skills, such as problem-solving, decision-making, and social skills.
It’s important for parents to be aware that a therapist sitting down with your child one hour per week is not necessarily going to calm your child’s symptoms, but rather what will be most helpful is if you learn what you can do every day to work with your child.
ADHD symptoms can certainly be challenging at times. And the idea of using medication to treat the symptoms can be scary. But by following these tips, creating a positive home environment, and seeking support, dealing with your child’s symptoms will hopefully no longer have to be a battle.
Thanks so much to Wrae for allowing me to share my tips and experiences with you! Do you have a child with ADHD? If so, what non-medication tips have been helpful for you?
Disclaimer: Although I was a therapist, I am not your therapist or your child’s therapist. Reading this post does not enter you into a client-therapist relationship with me. The content in this post is meant to be used as a general guideline and has not been individually tailored to the needs of you and your child. If you are in need of therapeutic services, please seek the support of a mental health counselor or behavior specialist.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2005). Caring for children with ADHD: A resource toolkit for clinicians. Chapel Hill, NC.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
Angela Baguet Bio
Angela is a wife and stay-at-home mommy to a beautiful little girl. Prior to becoming a mom, she worked as a child mental health therapist. Her blog, Natural Born Mommy, focuses on teaching mommies like you about parenting strategies and mental health. When she’s not chasing around after her toddler, she also enjoys writing about all things motherhood-related. Check out her free behavior cheatsheet for mommies here!