Talking About ADHD

Whatever It Is, You Can Tell Me

“It’s common for a child diagnosed with ADHD to expect negativity and blame when others address her problems. But you can develop a style of interacting that makes it safe for her to speak her mind.” Here’s how.

Father and adhd son time, child won't talk
Father and adhd son time

Have you ever done the following dance with your child with ADHD? You ask for her input on something important, like turning around her grades or figuring out a way to clean a corner of her room while still having time to play video games, and she doesn’t want to talk. She mumbles, “I don’t know,” “Maybe,” “What do you want me to say?”

It’s common for a child diagnosed with ADHD to avoid these discussions because she has come to expect negativity and blame when others address her problems.

Break Down the Barriers

How do you build an open, secure relationship with your child and break down the barriers, so she will talk without reservation, share what she feels, and take steps toward solving problems?

You can develop a style of interacting with your child that makes it safe for her to speak her mind. Here are ways to do it:

Talk with her about the consequences of leaving a problem unresolved or a chore undone, without telling her that she should change. Is she prepared to deal with the consequences?

[The Delicate Balance of Rewards and Consequences]

Use humor to put her at ease. For example, you could say, “Now, where should we put the dirty dishes? In the backyard? Oh, in the dishwasher? OK, why don’t you help me?”

Talk with your palms open rather than with your fingers pointed at her.

Ask her to say whatever comes to mind, without being concerned whether she is right or wrong.

Ask her the same question in different ways to get a response. If she is not reacting, ask her, “What if you took a guess?”

Make it safe for her to be candid. Ask her, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you told me what you think?” Reassure her that you will be positive and encourage her to tell you when she is upset.

[Free Download: Best Discipline Strategies for Children with ADHD]

Let her know that her ideas are important. They can help determine family policy. Show her that you are willing to understand her point of view. After she speaks, repeat what you think she said.

Allow your child time to speak and complete her ideas before you jump in.

Encourage her to clarify, if you are unsure of what she is saying. That will help you stay connected.

Notice when she starts to disengage from the conversation, and address the problem. Ask her: “You don’t look excited. What are you feeling? What can I do to make it easier for you to talk with me?”

Excerpted and used with permission by New Harbinger Publications. Parenting Your Child with ADHD: A No-Nonsense Guide for Nurturing Self-Reliance and Cooperation,” by CRAIG B. WIENER, Ed.D.