Raising a child with ADHD is never easy. The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can create stress in any family and challenge parents in a strong family. But in a single-parent home, it can be difficult, demanding, and frustrating, especially after a disruptive divorce. When your ex-spouse is not in the picture, you’re the be-all and end-all for your children. You complete all tasks despite your lack of sleep, deal with the emotional roller coaster that comes with your child’s condition, and make sure your child gets what he or she needs. You’re likely feeling isolated, overworked, and drained. But there are ways to give your best to your ADHD child without losing your sanity. You’ll need to adopt different approaches that will help your kid improve and do well. Here are our tips for going it alone and tackling common challenges.
Tips on Raising a Child with ADHD As a Single Parent
Educate Yourself About ADHD
Learning all you can about ADHD is essential. A child with ADHD has a functionally different brain, which makes them lose track of things. ADHD also makes it difficult to stay on top of routines and assigned tasks. You need to educate yourself about the causes of ADHD and how the symptoms play as the child develops. This can help you identify the difficulties your child has because of the symptoms of ADHD.
ADHD affects children in different ways. Some need to get better at listening and paying attention. Others need to slow down. You can help your child concentrate by alternating interesting and boring tasks, suggesting breaks to break the tension, and balancing adrenaline levels. Visit your child’s therapist to have an ADHD test for children and ask for tips that can help your child with ADHD improve.
You can’t help an aggressive child if you can’t keep your emotions under control. Children often mimic what they see their parents do, so if it’s obvious that you’re aggravated, expect your child’s anger to become even more escalated. Pay attention to yourself and remain composed during an ADHD outburst. Arguing with your child creates a diversion that delays tasks even longer. Take time to relax and collect your thoughts, and then choose to diffuse instead of engaging.
Define the Rules, but Allow Some Flexibility
A child with ADHD does best when there are clear, consistent expectations. Defining the rules and setting structure can help reduce distractibility and disorganization. Structure involves planners and calendars for older children and star charts for younger ones. It’s important to talk with your child about house rules and set a consistent time to complete tasks. Because a child with ADHD may be slow to adapt to change, be flexible and allow your child to make mistakes as they learn. Do not use unreasonable deadlines, threats, or punishments that contribute to fear, hostility, or drama.
Consider a Laid Back Approach
Many single parents act like supercops, trying to stay on top of everything because they don’t have a partner who can ensure the child sticks to the structure. But nagging will only create tension. You need a laid back approach that allows your child to take the lead when possible. For instance, you can ask your child to tape record reminders to empower him/her to take control of his/her days.
Regulate Sleep Patterns
Lack of sleep is common for children suffering from ADHD, but it can exacerbate hyperactivity, inattention, and recklessness. To help your child get better sleep, decrease screen time and eliminate stimulants like caffeine and sugar. Also, engaging in outdoor activities can give your child an outlet for excessive energy. Establish a calming bedtime ritual.
Use Reasonable Punishment
Your child is bound to break the rules and have aggressive outbursts. When this happens, don’t groan, yell, or take it personally. Address the situation in a respectful approach. As a start, ask your child what the punishment should be when they break a rule. This gives your child the opportunity to create commitments they can own. Time-out is an effective way to calm your child and give them time to cool off and reflect on their negative behavior. It’s also a good idea to be flexible and ignore mildly disruptive behavior to allow your child to release built-up energy. However, abusive, destructive, or intentionally disruptive behavior should always be punished.
Schedule Special One-On-One Time
Being the sole breadwinner and raising a child with ADHD can leave you feeling exhausted, drained, and irritable on most days. However, too many skirmishes can erode your child’s perception of being loved and cared for. Every week, recharge your parent-child relationship by spending some one-on-one time with each of your children. The shared time should involve high-quality interaction and child-oriented activities. This will considerably decrease sibling rivalry and improve your children’s self-esteem.
Focus on Your Child’s Strength
Instead of focusing on what your child can’t do, hone what they’re good at. Remind yourself about the individuality, creativity, and resourcefulness of your child. Praise your child’s good behavior and be positive about their future. The same determination that drives you crazy today will be a source of empowerment tomorrow. Don’t deny your child’s special needs and don’t define him or her by his or her shortcomings. It’s imperative to remain positive and encouraging.
Give your Child Opportunities to Make Decisions
To help teach your child self-control, you need to provide ample opportunities for him/her to make wise decisions. This involves giving your child two choices using a technique known as “structured choice.” For instance, you might ask your child whether they want to do their science or math assignment first. If you need the room picked up before your child goes to dad’s house for the weekend, ask them whether they’ll prefer starting with the bed or the desk.
Keep Rules and Schedules Consistent Across Households
Kids with ADHD need a structure they can count on. Conflicting rules and schedules can be particularly confusing for a child with ADHD. It’s important to sit down with your ex and agree on a plan that will help maintain normalcy. One parent should not ease up on rules for screen time, bedtime, and other routines. Maintain a regular lineup of activities, including music lessons, sports, or playdates. Both parents should also follow a regular medication schedule if the child takes ADHD medication.
Kids with ADHD may require more trials and repetition in order to adapt to change. Trying a technique once or twice with no positive outcome doesn’t mean that it’s not effective. Review your child’s routine, give him or her adequate time and information to adjust to change, and keep trying until you get the results that you want.
You can’t do it all. Sometimes you’ll need other avenues of support to help you manage your child’s condition as well as your mental health. Find a therapist to work with your child. If you’re having trouble managing your stress and anxiety, you can also find individualized counseling. Online support forums, local support groups, family members, friends, and regular babysitters may be helpful outlets for single parents. If you’re co-parenting with your ex-spouse, you can let them take care of the child for a day or so.
Always Remember to Have Some “Me” Time
Many single parents often neglect the important elements of self-care. You can’t deal with your child 100% of the time. It will be overwhelming and frustrating for you and your child. Schedule alone time to do things you enjoy and recharge. You can take a walk, go to the gym, grab a book, take a relaxing bath, have a glass of wine, watch a movie, or just sit in a quiet room and enjoy the silence. Take some time for you, single parent, because you deserve it.
Be Mindful About Dating
It’s very easy for a child with ADHD to become attached to a parent’s new partner. Conversely, it’s much harder for a child with ADHD to let go when the relationship ends. Before a relationship is solid and committed, try to avoid bringing your dating partner into your child’s life.
Sara Anderson is the head of content for the Mango Clinic, a medical clinic that provides world-class health care services. She has been associated with the healthcare industry for 5+ years and specializes in health care and medical content. www.mangoclinic.com