Be a Better Parent, Part 3
10. Learn to anticipate potentially explosive situations.
Imagine that your daughter has been invited to a party. That's good news, especially for a child who isn't very popular with her peers. Now imagine that the party is hosted by a girl with whom your daughter recently quarreled. Do you simply cross your fingers and hope for the best?
"Absolutely not," warns Dr. DuPaul. "Parents spend a lot of time in reactive mode instead of thinking ahead and planning ahead." A simple plan, he says, is all it takes to keep a positive experience from turning negative for all concerned.
"In our house, we have 'the plan,'" says Sara Bykowski. "Before we go into a store or to a friend's home, we talk about the behavior that is expected and possible pitfalls. We also have a routine for any problems that arise. I might say, 'Can I talk to you for a minute?' and then take him away from the group. We discuss what's happening and try to come up with a solution. Sometimes we still have to leave early, but that happens much less often now."
Whatever you do, be consistent. "All kids benefit from consistency," says Dr. DuPaul, "but ADHD kids, in particular, need consistency. It's not a luxury for them." A last-minute change in schedule or an interruption of a familiar routine can wreak havoc with a child who already feels like she spends most of her time off-balance and "catching up." Better to have set routines and plans and do all you can to stick to them.
"Set your home up in a way that encourages organization and responsibility, then run it like an army barracks," suggests ADHDer Shirley McCurdy, an organizational expert and the author of The Floor Is Not an Option. "Think easy and accessible - clear storage bins for clothes, zippered pouches for homework, and a large, color-coded family calendar."
Make sure you and your spouse are in agreement on matters of organization and discipline. "Parents who aren't on the same page in their general approach to motivation and discipline with their ADD child can cause problems," says Stephen Grcevich, M.D., a child psychiatrist in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. "Behavioral interventions for kids with ADHD are unlikely to be successful unless applied consistently."
When parents present a united front, their children know exactly what to expect. Ultimately, the more predictable and consistent your child's environment becomes, the happier the whole family will be.
11. Be a good role model.
Parents are a child's most influential role model, so think carefully about your behavior. If you're unable to control yourself, how can you expect your child to exercise self-control?
"Yelling sets a poor example of how your child should handle his emotions," says Dr. Brady. "Parents tend to think that, the louder they get, the bigger the impact on the child — but it doesn't work. The only thing the child hears is the anger. The situation quickly spirals out of control."
It's perfectly normal to feel angry at your child from time to time. It's not OK to continually shout at her. You wouldn't dream of screaming and swearing at friends or coworkers, so you know you can control your anger if you must.
Next time your child does something that causes your blood to boil, leave the room, take a few deep breaths, or do something else to calm yourself. When you demonstrate self-calming techniques in this way, you teach your child the importance of managing her emotions.
If you do lose your temper, do not hesitate to apologize to your child.
12. Seek help from others.
Some things in life simply cannot be done well alone, and raising an ADD child is one of them. "If you take the Clint Eastwood approach, you'll wind up exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically," says Dr. Brown-Gratchev. "Build a NASA-worthy support system. That way, when your own 'system' overloads or fails, as it inevitably will from time to time, there's someone to put you back together again."
Ask your pediatrician for the name of a psychologist or other mental-health professional who specializes in ADHD. Or contact CHADD - chances are, there's a chapter in your community.
Sue Kordish, of Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, knows the value of a reliable support system. "For years, my husband and I worried that no sitter would understand our son's special needs," she says. "We tried hiring a teenager, but it didn't work out, and the experience left us even more wary. With no family members living nearby, the situation was hard. We just didn't go out. Then we found a sitter who works with special-needs kids. We were finally able to relax and enjoy some seriously overdue couple time."