No one ever *really* knows what they’re doing when it comes to parenting, and it goes without saying that everyone has their own style.
But — a little advice from a trusted source can go a long way, especially if you’re raising a kiddo with ADHD.
In 2016, the CDC reported that 9.4 percent of children between ages 2–17 were diagnosed with ADHD. That means almost 1 in 10 parents are in the same boat as you, and likely have just as many questions.
We probably can’t answer them all, but we hope the below list of real, doable parenting advice will help.
We’ve compiled this list from studies, research, and tips from parents with kids with ADHD, so you know it’s legit and can help you get a head start on being the best parent possible.
1. Get a little selfish
Studies show that parental stress may increase when raising a child with ADHD (especially when other conditions are also present), which could lead to even more parenting struggles down the road.
If you’re thinking “No sh*t” right now, hear us out.
Sometimes it takes a scientific study with tangible data to remind us stress, overload, and burnout is real and not some flaw we can will away.
In a world where your child always comes first, you need to schedule in moments that prioritize you.
Whatever that looks like — a walk with your dog, kickball with friends, a realllyyy foamy latte, krav maga, or a face-first-in-the-pillow nap — trust us when we say focusing on yourself will help you be a better parent.
2. Discipline your kid the same, but different
Kids with ADHD require a slightly different approach, which means you need to be flexible.
Your friend’s kid is throwing toys and wrestling his teddy bear after recess. Normal parenting code would consider this time-out worthy. It’s the same for kids with ADHD, but not.
Since hyperactivity is a symptom of ADHD, this behavior is often a result of their condition. It doesn’t mean they have a get-out-of-jail-free card for life — you just need to choose the appropriate punishment and strategy.
Yelling at a kid for their ADHD-related behavior does not help them develop the skills they need to self-regulate, and they may end up acting out more if they feel they’ll get yelled at regardless.
Try punishments, like time-out, that feel routine, structured, and give clear guidelines as to why the behavior isn’t OK.
3. Create and stick to a routine
Routines are your kid’s best friend right now.
You don’t need to box them in with rules on rules, but many children with ADHD thrive under a set schedule, since they haven’t figured out how to prioritize things on their own.
This particularly applies to your routines before and after school.
While walking the walk is most important, you can double down on that scheduling power by hanging a dry erase board calendar somewhere prominent in your home, like the kitchen.
Track your family’s to-do’s, appointments, and important things to remember. If your kid is old enough for a tablet, phone, or computer, try setting digital reminders and alerts.
Not only will your child feel focused and supported, but it’ll keep you accountable, too.
4. Establish clear ground rules — and actually follow them
Remember our talk about routines? This also applies to basic rules at home.
This helps to minimize confusion your kid might have regarding a behavior, such as leaving the table during mealtimes. You can even ask your child to help set some of these rules once they’re old enough.
5. Take things one step at a time
Taking it slow can actually teach your youngster a bigger lesson: mindfulness.
Sure it sounds posh, but in addition to other om-worthy benefits, science has found mindfulness to be effective at reducing ADHD symptoms.
By choosing one simple task, like putting books back on a shelf, and seeing it through from start to finish, you help your child exercise their own ability to focus.
Avoid giving them multiple tasks at a time and do your best to be patient.
6. Prioritize play and exercise
There’s increasing evidence that exercise can help children with ADHD.
By promoting neural growth and cognitive development, studies suggest that getting your little ones moving on a regular basis might help mitigate some of their symptoms.
Bonus: You’ll set them up for a healthy, active life.
7. Make meal prep ADHD-friendly
While there’s no conclusive research, many parents find that adhering to certain dietary restrictions can help ease some of their child’s ADHD symptoms.
A healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is good for everyone.
But parents might also consider eliminating or reducing certain foods and ingredients, including but not limited to sugary foods, and ones with artificial colors and preservatives.
You can also try adding more omega-3 fatty acids — aka fish, nuts, and seeds.
8. Perfect the art of the bribe
K, so you’re not the God Father, but incentivizing chores will create a positive association with cleaning, something many kids with ADHD struggle with.
If you’ve ever described your kid’s room as looking like a bomb went off, you understand what we mean here.
To keep that room clean, you need to first lead by example.
Do your best to keep things at home clean, despite how tempting it is to let the dishes soak for another two days. Then, bring out the bribes, er, incentives.
Ideally these won’t impact your kid’s routines, so try things like letting them pick the after-dinner movie or a points system that adds up to a new toy, book, or item of clothing.
9. Make bedtime a sacred event
You don’t need us to tell you sleep is important for growing kids, but it bears repeating: Sleep is so effing important for your child’s development and management of their ADHD.
That includes having a set bedtime, potentially offering melatonin (ask your doc about how to do this properly), and turning off screens about a half hour before bed.
10. When in doubt, try behavior therapy
Ask your pediatrician to connect you with a therapist who can teach you behavior therapy.
Because parents have such a strong influence on their kids, it is most beneficial that little ones receive their therapy directly from them.
A few sessions with an expert will show you how to provide positive communication, positive reinforcement, structure, and discipline for your child.
11. If you have an older child, don’t be afraid to let someone else step in
Every parent just loooves the day their baby becomes a teen and World War III erupts in their house.
Fact: This happens to literally everyone, and you’re *not* alone.
Fact 2: ADHD makes this chaos even more difficult to navigate, both for you and your kid.
Enter behavior therapy 2.0. For kids in middle school and high school, a therapist might be the best person to help them navigate their symptoms.
This type of therapy delivered by a neutral third party can be especially helpful for kids displaying defiance and opposition (which is basically what teen roads are paved with).
Ask your physician for a therapist recommendation. Not only can they help your teen, but they’ll have plenty of tips for keeping an open dialogue about therapy and ways to show judgment-free support.
12. Talk to your kid’s teachers, but don’t be a helicopter parent
Teachers spend about seven hours a day with your kids at school. Shouldn’t you give them all the tools to make the most of those hours?
First things first, chat with your kid’s teachers and care providers about your youngster’s diagnosis. Odds are this isn’t their first rodeo and they’ll know how to proceed.
Go in prepared to answer questions and offer explanations, but don’t turn the meeting into an hour-long ADHD 101 course.
The goal is to let anyone caring for your child leave with an understanding of how to keep up with established routines, understand triggers, and make a plan to help your kid thrive.
Keep having these conversations regularly so that everyone stays on the same page. Your child’s teacher might even have fresh ADHD parenting tips from their own interactions with your kid.
13. For extra support in school, consider an IEP or Section 504
When the traditional curriculum isn’t cutting it, chat with your child’s school about creating an Independent Education Plan.
If they are not eligible for an IEP, you may still be able to get help via Section 504, which requires schools to provide assistance to students with learning disabilities.
Note that you’ll need a diagnosis from your child’s doctor beforehand.
Also, be honest with your kid before making the change. No one wants to be singled out as different in school, but if your little one is really struggling, a customized learning plan could be just what they need.
14. Let them fidget
Some kids focus better when they have an outlet for their fidgeting. You’ve heard about fidget spinners, but there’s actually a wide world of cool fidget-friendly toys out there.
Giving your kid an outlet during moments when they’re asked to sit still can help them focus better at home and at school (after you check with their teacher, of course).
15. Request assigned seats
We know we said not to be a helicopter parent, but in this case, going the extra mile could be helpful. An ADHD student’s seat should be strategically placed within a classroom.
Work with their teacher to find an appropriate place, such as near the teacher, near the front of the classroom, or away from too many distractions.
16. Take your kid to yoga
Whether you participate together or sign them up for a children’s yoga series, make time to go om.
A regular yoga practice has been shown to decrease symptoms of ADHD, and has generally been proven effective for treating issues like anxiety and depression.
17. Experiment with essential oils
The science is still so-so here, and it’s certainly not a replacement for legit treatments like behavior therapy, but essential oils are another route many parents of kids with ADHD swear by.
Oils like rosemary, peppermint, and lavender have all been linked to relaxation and improved concentration. Try setting up a diffuser while your kid does homework or adding a few drops to their bath water.
Just be careful to avoid contact with eyes, and do not apply to skin without diluting in the bath or a carrier oil first.
18. Make technology your friend
As a parent it’s only natural to have complicated feelings about screen time, but if they’re gonna have digital devices, you might as well use the resources available on them.
Younger children will benefit from you taking the lead in helping them stay organized with their homework, projects, and extracurriculars.
But older teens could benefit from using these on their own to keep track of assignments, part-time job schedules, college exams, study sessions, athletic events, and more.
19. Look inside their head
Ever wish you could know what’s going on inside your kid’s head? Some individuals have found success treating ADHD symptoms with neurofeedback.
This type of training allows a child to actually see how their brain responds to the task of concentration, and might help them discover better tactics for staying focused.
20. Spend more time outside
Studies have shown that time outside is beneficial for all, but even more so for kids with ADHD, who often have an easier time focusing after spending a little time in nature.
21. Monitor screen time
Pun not intended. More research is needed, but limiting screen time can help keep ADHD symptoms at bay.
Some studies suggest that children and teens with ADHD are more susceptible to screen addiction issues, so it’s best to keep an eye out for excessive phone or computer usage.
Try going for a walk, playing a game, or practicing a new skill with all that extra free time.
22. Keep an open mind about medication
We don’t blame anyone for seeking ADHD treatments that don’t involve meds, but you need to be open to the possibility that they may be necessary at some point.
Talk to your kid’s pediatrician to try and figure out the best Rx for them, and do your research, too. If something doesn’t seem right with one medication, it’s your right as your child’s advocate to seek out second opinions.
Many children do thrive once the right combination of medicines is prescribed, but these should always be taken as part of a larger, customized treatment plan.
Overall, parents raising children who have ADHD have a lot of options when it comes to managing their kid’s symptoms.
Becoming an informed and involved parent is the first step, followed by developing a solid support team via therapists, doctors, teachers, and other caregivers.
Make sure your youngster always understands that you’re on their side, and that you’ll do everything you can to support them as they navigate life with ADHD.
And don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Even taking a few moments to high-five yourself will make you a better parent day after day.