Simple Tips for Managing Your Child's ADHD

One year ago, my oldest son was diagnosed with ADD. The original diagnosis didn't include the "H" (hyperactive) part--which was mainly based on our therapists' experience with kids who were super-hyperactive. But, of course, there is a spectrum for these things and it's my personal opinion that my son does have the "H" part. Anyway, at this time, we are not medicating him. I'm not against medication, per se. There may come a time when it's necessary and/or beneficial. But for right now, I just want to make sure we are doing everything in our power to support and manage his ADHD before we turn to medication.

Here's how we're doing it:

  1. Daily exercise: every morning before school, I send him outside. Sometimes he shoots hoops, sometimes he rides his bike around the block. Even if it's super early--I've discovered that his brain is much more settled if he gets physical exercise first thing in the morning. Additionally, before his piano lesson, I make him run around the block two or three times. This helps him expend all that pent up energy before settling down to focus on piano.
  2. High-intensity sport: We tried baseball for a few years and it was just too slow moving. He got bored, frustrated and tuned out. We recently enrolled him in Lacrosse which is a fast moving, high-impact, high-intensity sport and he loves it. Right now he plays Lacrosse twice a week with a team and he also plays it in our neighborhood with friends. I'm also thinking about putting him in swimming during the summer. I've heard that ADHD kids do well in individual sports like swimming.
  3. To-Do Lists: Every day when he gets home from school, I have a short to-do list ready for him. It's no more than five items--any more than that and he'll get overwhelmed. I've discovered if I can direct his energy, he is able to accomplish quite a bit of work. He is an expert dishwasher loader, floor sweeper and trash emptier! A to-do list keeps him on track and he also takes special pride in crossing off his list.
  4. Use a timer: I use a timer for everything. My son has a tendency to hyper-focus. He easily loses track of time. A timer keeps him accountable. He likes setting the timer himself: it gives him a sense of control over something that seems interminable, ie. piano practice. Sometimes I'll even pack a timer in his pocket when he goes outdoors to play or else he'll totally forget when to come home.
  5. Forego lunch pails: After purchasing countless lunch pails only to have him forget them at school and lose them, I simply pack his lunch in a ziploc bag or recycled grocery bag. That way, if he loses it, it's not big deal. I also only buy cheap jackets and sweatshirts because chances are, he'll lose those, too.
  6. Don't take it personally: ADHD kids often live in their own worlds--and what beautiful, imaginative, creative worlds they are! However, sometimes people misunderstand ADHD people and think they are being neglectful or intentionally forgetful. I've discovered that no amount of nagging or reminding is going to help my son remember his lunch or come home at the right time. Instead of getting frustrated or upset, it's more efficient to build systems and protocol. I imagine these as systems as lane dividers that help keep my son's car from wandering into opposing lanes of traffic.

Living with someone who has ADHD can be challenging. But I have disciplined myself to truly love and embrace the unique qualities of my smart, ADHD kid. The way he thinks and the ideas he comes up with are startling and brilliant. I can't imagine him any other way. I love him just the way he is! In fact, I feel blessed to have my ADHD boy!