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10 Things Every Parent Should Know to Help Their Child with ADD or ADHD

Author: Leslie Miller, MSW, LICSW 

Approximately 3- 5% of children will carry a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD by the time they reach elementary school.  Many children are helped by medication, counseling, tutoring,   structured time management in the home, and healthy nurturing by parents, teachers and caregivers. 

Prior to beginning medication you should get a second opinion to make sure that your child has not been incorrectly diagnosed and that he/she accurately meets the DSM-IV criteria for ADD/ADHD.  You may want to rule out that certain behaviors are not caused by life stressors including major changes in home, school, or caregivers, prior to the determination of a diagnosis.  Additionally, you may want to try some dietary changes to rule out food allergies, including excessive sugars, food colorings and additives in the diet

Here are some things that you can do to help structure your child’s day to eliminate added stressors. 

1)      Make sure that your child has a tutor to get extra help with homework.  As a parent you will need to help structure your child’s time.  Enlisting outside help for homework will help you focus on your child’s time management skills and  limit conflict and excessive frustration. Communicate openly with teachers and other caregivers regarding your child’s diagnosis.  Review  periodically what is working and what is not working for your child.

2)      Help structure your child’s time so that he/she has ample to time to get ready for school, appointments and any extracurricular activities. Trying to do things last minute will be disastrous and frustrating.  You need to plan ahead.


3)      When you give your child a task or chore that you would like accomplished, be very specific as to what your expectations are.  Don’t just ask that he/she clean their room.  Make a checklist of each chore that you expect completed (i.e. pickup clothing on floor, organize books, change sheets on bed, etc.)

4)      Make sure you give a very specific time frame for when you would like something completed (i.e. “Please take out the trash after school today before 5 pm”).

5)      Set limits for homework.  If your child loses the ability to concentrate, or loses interest after 30 minutes of homework, structure the homework so that he/she is working on it in 25/30 minute intervals with 15 minute breaks. Factor in unstructured time throughout the day so that your child does not feel overwhelmed by too much structuring of their time. 

6)      Limit extracurricular activities.  If you have a son or daughter that is very interested in sports, make sure that they chose 1 sport per season so that they do not become overloaded by running to and from various activities, practices and meetings.

7)      Do not push your child beyond their limits or set unreasonable expectations.  It is very likely that your child will feel some embarrassment regarding their diagnosis.  Pushing your child will intensify their frustration and yours as well.

8)      Do not allow the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD to become an excuse for everything that goes wrong. Giving your child an out because they have ADD/ADHD will help only serve to help them underachieve. While excessive pressure is not recommended, allowing your child to underachieve due to their diagnosis of ADD will be detrimental as it will set the bar low for expectations from self and others.

9)      Limit videos and television and excessive multitasking.  Many children claim they can study with the music/television on especially in a culture that promotes multi-tasking.  Multi-tasking in general adds significantly to stress levels and does not promote good habits or discipline in most people. Keeping your home quiet (as much as possible), eliminating environmental stressors (i.e. loud television, music, video games, etc), will promote healthy habits and limit stress.

10)  Focus on your child’s core strengths, help them identify key areas in which they excel or show a high level of interest. Give positive feedback for accomplishments. 

Helping your child develop positive self-esteem will be critical.  Children and adolescents with ADD/ADHD may be more susceptible to juvenile delinquency, peer-pressure, depression and substance abuse.  Helping your child develop key strengths, interests and special skills will go a long way to help combat these issues. If your child is showing an excessive amount of frustration, anger or defiance at home or in school, review with a counselor your daily routines, medication and  any additional psychosocial stressors.  For parents of children with ADD/ADHD, consider getting counseling and support. You may need help managing your child’s time, academic life and social activities in a way that is balanced and can be managed effectively and incorporated into your family routine.

Article Source:

About the Author:  Leslie Miller has been a practicing psychotherapist who has worked with families, couples and children for 10 years.

Webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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 Diagnosis - DSM-IV Diagnosis and Codes: Alphabetical and ADHD Medication Information






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