Parenting Tips: Strategies That Best Support Children with ADHD

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common disorder affecting children, according to the American Psychiatric Association. It affects approximately 10% of children worldwide, and about 2.5% of adults. ADHD is caused by both environmental and genetic factors, and it is believed that this is why the incidence of ADHD is higher in adopted individuals than the general population.

The environmental factors contributing to ADHD include prenatal alcohol or drug exposure, prenatal maternal smoking, low birth weight and lead poisoning. Approximately 40% of children with ADHD will have a parent with ADHD, generally the father; however, not all children born to parents with ADHD will have ADHD. For children adopted from group home settings such as an orphanage, there is a greater risk of being diagnosed with ADHD.

When symptoms resembling those of ADHD are observed, it is important to speak with a professional to rule out other medical problems that may be the cause, such as hearing problems.

Remember as well that all children daydream, are over active, and have emotional outbursts from time to time. It’s part of growing up. With a child who has ADHD, these symptoms occur more often and can be harder to deal with and last longer. That is why it is so important to implement effective discipline techniques and help your child build skills to manage their behavior.

Here are 5 Tips to best support your child:

1. Give Reminders to Manage Transitions

Transitions during the day can prove to be a struggle for all children, but those that have adoption as part of their history and those with symptoms of ADHD can have a particularly challenging time.  To help children better manage the transitions during the day, remember to give reminders of upcoming transitions.  For example, “In 15 minutes we are going to put pajamas on to start getting ready for bed!” Children with ADHD can benefit from having a consistent schedule.  Remember to give fair warning when the schedule will be different.

2. Use Eye Contact

When giving directives to your child, kneel to their level, get eye contact and talk to them. Check in to make sure they are clear about what is happening next.  This ensures you have their attention and they have heard what you said.  It also helps to avoid a situation where you need to yell or raise your voice to communicate your message.

3. Acknowledge and Label Feelings

Not knowing what to do when big feelings come on can be tough for kids who will be quick to act. As a parent, you can help by teaching feelings and labeling them when you see them. Acknowledge the feeling you see in your child first, then you can work with them to address the behavior.

4. Using Time Ins (Not Time Outs)

A Time Out is when a child is told to go somewhere alone (to face a wall or go to a different room) for a period of time to cool down. Traditionally, parents are told to withhold attention from their child during the duration of the Time Out. During a TimeIn, a caregiver kindly asks a child that is going through a stressful or difficult moment to sit with him/her in order to process feelings and cool down.

Both Time Ins and Outs are used to give a child a moment away from whatever troubling situation occurred to compose themselves, reflect and prepare to re-join.  The benefits of Time Ins are that they allow the caregiver to model and coach the child through calming down.  For children who join their family through adoption, this difference is important as it does not require them to be physically (and emotionally) separated from a caregiver or re-experience feelings of loss or rejection.  For children with ADHD time ins give them the support with emotional regulation- something they often are not able to do on their own. Remember time ins are a time for quiet and calming- discussions about the misbehavior can come later when everyone is calm.

5. Take Responsibility for Mistakes

Children have their mistakes pointed out all the time.  Model for them what it looks like to take responsibility for a mistake.  Think back to those times when you didn’t handle your big feelings the way you would have liked or when transitions (getting everyone out of the house on time in the morning) made you angry or frazzled.  Give yourself a chance to do it differently the next time and give your child the opportunity too.

Spence-Chapin provides a holistic and personalized ADHD treatment plan for your child by partnering with parents, educators, school psychologists, and school counselors.  We can help transform your child’s behavior and strengthen your entire family.   Call us at 646-539-2167 or e-mail to schedule a free consultation.

A Response to Re-Homing News Stories

The recent news stories on “re-homing” adoptees are very disturbing; no child should have to suffer the trauma of being separated from their birth family and then again from their adopted family.

AdopteeWhile upsetting, it is important to understand that these articles are not about adoption practices. The transfers referred to in the recent press happened outside of procedures and safeguards set forth for adoption. In many ways these eye-opening events underscore the need for additional safeguards to be put in place for all children, whether they were born to the family looking to find them a new home, or adopted internationally or domestically. Federal/State child protection laws need to be improved so children are protected from this and other child-trafficking practices.

What these stories do highlight is the need for family assessment, parent preparation and post-placement support.  We know that adoption is a lifelong commitment and that it is important that families always have access to post-adoption services.  “Adoptive families work hard to support their adopted children despite the inevitable challenges that will arise,” said Emily Forhman, Spence-Chapin’s Executive Director. “Having access to qualified adoption clinicians who can counsel parents as well as children is a key component to creating healthy families.” Given the right training and post-placement support, virtually all adoptive parents will be able to provide their children with the permanent and loving home they so deserve.

It is the responsibility of adoption agencies to ensure that parents are properly vetted, trained, and supported and every agency must embrace this responsibility seriously.   In the rare situation where an adoptive placement can’t be permanent, the child’s best interests should be paramount.  The agency(s) involved with the placement of the child with the disrupting family should take on the responsibility of finding a suitable and permanent home for the child; under no circumstances should a family be in a situation where they need to privately transfer the custody of an adopted child to a stranger.

The articles spotlight a real problem and we deplore these situations and the unspeakable hardships that have befallen these children.  At the same time, we are always concerned when the press sensationalizes the circumstances of a handful of misguided families.  The unfortunate reality is that most people gather their information about adoption from hearsay or biased media outlets and tragically, their mistaken views add to the growing number of children left without families and stigmas that adopted persons and their families face to this day.

Note to families:
Despite their critical importance, there is little to no dedicated federal funding for post-adoption services.  Please contact your congressional leader and ask then to make post-adoption services funding a priority.