ADHD: Non-medication help…

ADHD kidIt seems like every day I have another parent asking me if their child has ADHD (aka Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). The answer isn’t an easy one, neither is the solution. I wrote a post trying to help answer this very question. If you want more information about how to know if your child’s behavior may or may not be ADHD, read Hyperactive or just busy…Could  your child have ADHD?

If you think your child has ADHD, but aren’t sure if they need medication or not, there are some things you can do that should help. Will these effective parenting tips keep your child from needing medication? No. If a child is in need of medication, then, I recommend medicating them. Medication alone can not help a child that is truly ADHD. The most effective treatment is medication along with therapy and effective parenting. 

I’ve talked before about effective parenting. I don’t think enough attention is paid to the importance of proper parenting. I see parents that want me to fix their child, when the problem is that the child is in need of consistency and routine. Children NEED consistent routines, especially children with ADHD.

  • Routine is unbelievably important. Doing things according to a schedule helps a child learn what to anticipate day after day. Using lists or pictures can be helpful to remind children what they are responsible for and keep them on task. Even with routine, your ADHD child will still need help getting everything done.
  • Make sure the rules are clear and followed consistently. If you have rules that are only enforced some of the time, the child will not know when they do or don’t have to follow the rules. This leads to frustration for the child and the parent. And, needless to say, inconsistent results!
  • Give the kids something to be responsible for…this could be helping to take care of pets, taking out the trash, or other chores around the house. This helps the child feel important, learn responsibility, and also builds self-esteem. You will have to remind your child to do their chores, it isn’t going to just happen. Having a list and checking off chores/responsibilities as they accomplish them can be helpful, and is a good way to reinforce good behavior.
  • Praise and Positive Reinforcement is a must for disciplining all children, especially children with ADHD. Recognize & Praise good behavior and accomplishments. Just getting homework or small chores done can be challenging for children with attention issues.
  • Limit “screen time” – This includes all screens, such as TV, video games, computer, etc. Screen time should be limited to just 2-3 hours per day, and should be turned off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This isn’t hard to enforce during the school year because there is limited free time after school. It is a little more challenging during the Summer. Being more liberal with this rule during the summer is ok, just remember, you will see a difference in the child’s behavior; and it is essential to get back into a school routine a week or 2 before school actually starts.
  • Have a good bedtime routine with an acceptable bedtime. Kids in preschool and early elementary grades should be in bed by 7:30-8:30, upper elementary should be 8:30-9, middle school 9-9:30, and high school should be between 9-10. For more information about sleep, please see my blog, Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development. A tired child has trouble focusing, paying attention, and retaining information. For preschool aged children, there is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.
  • Watch what your child is eating, 3 healthy meals and snacks are important for good brain function. Adding essential fatty acids to a child’s diet helps promote good brain function. Eliminate artificial food dyes (AFDs) from the child’s diet. AFDs have been proven to increase hyperactivity in the majority of children. A study done in Great Britain in 2006 documented that 75% of children demonstrated hyperactive behavior correlated with ingestion of AFDs and Sodium Benzoate. I have recommended this intervention to many families, and received many Thank You’s because it makes such an obvious difference in the child’s behavior. I firmly believe that AFDs should be eliminated from our food supply altogether. AFDs have been outlawed in Canada, Britain, Germany and a few other countries.
  • If your child has allergies, treat allergies with a daily allergy medication. Allergies can make ADHD worse! Allergies are a hypersensitivity, ADHD is a hypersensitive state…1+1=2, it’s that simple (not really, but treatment is a must).
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activity helps to regulate the neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in those with ADHD. Participation in sports can be helpful and rewarding for your child. Daily outside time, even when it’s cold should be the norm. Tell your kids to run around the house a few laps before dinnertime, it gets the wiggles out.
  • Whatever your child is good at, encourage it! Whether their forte’ is math, sports, or creating, encourage it! Without our multitasking, intelligent ADHDers, we would not have telephones, airplanes, or many of the inventions and discoveries we take for granted everyday. My above mentioned ADHD post expands on this, even listing all the famous people throughout history that have/had ADHD, check it out!

These interventions take time and effort on the part of parents. They are useful for all kids of all ages, but especially necessary for kids with ADHD. Many of these interventions are just good, effective parenting. 

If a child is in need of medication, these interventions will NOT replace the need for medicating the child. There are typically side effects of medication for most kids, and this can be worrisome to parents. Some of the side effects can be decreased appetite when med is at it’s peak, headaches, stomach aches, mood swings, and sleep issues. It’s important to figure out if the medication is actually to blame, or if there is another underlying reason for the unwanted symptoms. For example, most ADHD kids will have trouble falling asleep, it may be the ADHD or too much screen time, and not the medication. It’s also important to evaluate which is worse, the side effects or the effects of untreated ADHD?? In my professional and personal opinion, the effects of untreated ADHD can be much worse than the side effects of the medication. Trust me, I’m living the ADHD thing with my son. Look for a post on untreated ADHD soon.

Having an ADHD child takes effort, patience, and frequently a little wine. 😉 ADHD children are challenging, difficult to parent, and also rewarding. Those creative ADHD minds are awesome to watch create, absolutely fascinating sometimes. So, if you are dealing with an ADHDer, don’t forget to stop and look at the positive side of this challenge. These ADHDers are going to do amazing things for society, they just need a little TLC, and A LOT of guidance to get there.

Good luck, and regardless of the challenges…. don’t forget to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

 

Effective Parenting… Important for all kids, but especially important for raising kids with ADHD!

Effective parenting takes time and effort, no doubt about it!!

For kids with ADHD, effective parenting is a must whether these kids are medicated or not medicated.

This information will be useful for all parents, not just those raising ADHD kids…

Does the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) need to be medicated?? Yes and No… that’s clear as mud, huh? First, it’s crucial to make sure that what you are dealing with is ADHD! Many children will present with symptoms that might appear to be ADHD, but are actually symptoms of other disorders. ADHD can present  differently for different kids. Yes, there are the classic symptoms, but not all children are as obvious as others. For diagnostic information about ADHD, check out my post, Hyperactive or Just Busy…Could your child have ADHD?

If it’s not ADHD, what else could it be? Some disorders that may present as ADHD could be anxiety, depression, lead poisoning, thyroid dysfunction, vision problems, food allergies/sensitivities, sleep apnea or something else entirely. Making sure your child has the appropriate evaluation is the first step to proper treatment.

I see many preschool age children that are brought in by their parents for behavior problems, it’s most frequently boys vs. girls. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that both boys and girls can have ADHD, but boys are diagnosed 2:1 over girls. I always say that God made boys to hunt and gather, not sit still for 8 hours. 😉 Perfect example – I saw a little boy this week for behavior problems, he is 3 years old and his mother thinks he has ADHD. The first thing I do is ask why the parent thinks the child has ADHD? Jason’s mom reported that he got in trouble in preschool A LOT, was biting other kids, was constantly in time-out, talks non-stop, and his dad has ADHD. After meeting with Jason and his mom, I think he might have ADHD, but at 3 years old I NEVER label a kid as ADHD. And, I would NEVER medicate a 3 year old for attention problems or hyperactivity; 3 yr olds are supposed to be active and have a very short attention span. If a child this young presents with problems, he needs a though neuro-psych evaluation!

There are many interventions that I recommend for young children with behavior issues that resemble ADHD. These interventions can make a huge difference for a family, and must be consistent! These interventions take time and effort on the part of parents. They are useful for all kids of all ages, but especially necessary for kids with ADHD. Many of these interventions are just good, effective parenting:

  • Routine is unbelievably important. Doing things according to a schedule helps a child learn what to anticipate day after day. Using lists or pictures can be helpful to remind children what they are responsible for and keep them on task.
  • Make sure the rules are clear and followed consistently. If you have rules that are only enforced some of the time, the child will not know when they do or don’t have to follow the rules. This leads to frustration for the child and the parent. And, needless to say, inconsistent results!
  • Give the kids something to be responsible for…this could be helping to take care of pets, taking out the trash, or other chores around the house. This helps the child feel important, learn responsibility, and also builds self-esteem.
  • Praise and Positive Reinforcement is a must for disciplining all children, especially children with ADHD. Recognize & Praise good behavior and accomplishments. Just getting homework or small chores done can be challenging for children with attention issues.
  • Limit “screen time” – This includes all screens, such as TV, video games, computer, etc. Screen time should be limited to just 2-3 hours per day, and should be turned off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This isn’t hard to enforce during the school year because there is limited free time after school. It is a little more challenging during the Summer. Being more liberal with this rule during the summer is ok, just remember, you will see a difference in the child’s behavior; and it is essential to get back into a school routine a week or 2 before school actually starts.
  • Have a good bedtime routine with an acceptable bedtime. Kids in preschool and early elementary grades should be in bed by 7:30-8:30, upper elementary should be 8:30-9, middle school 9-9:30, and high school should be between 9-10. For more information about sleep, please see my blog, Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development. A tired child has trouble focusing, paying attention, and retaining information. For preschool aged children, there is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.
  • Watch what your child is eating, 3 healthy meals and snacks are important for good brain function. Adding essential fatty acids to a child’s diet helps promote good brain function. Eliminate artificial food dyes (AFDs) from the child’s diet. AFDs have been proven to increase hyperactivity in the majority of children. A study done in Great Britain in 2006 documented that 75% of children demonstrated hyperactive behavior correlated with ingestion of AFDs and Sodium Benzoate. I have recommended this intervention to many families, and received many Thank You’s because it makes such an obvious difference in the child’s behavior. I firmly believe that AFDs should be eliminated from our food supply altogether. AFDs have been outlawed in Canada, Britain, Germany and a few other countries.
  • If your child has allergies, treat allergies with a daily allergy medication. Allergies can make ADHD worse! Allergies are a hypersensitivity, ADHD is a hypersensitive state…1+1=2, it’s that simple.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activity helps to regulate the neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in those with ADHD. Tell your kids to run around the house a few laps before dinnertime, it gets the wiggles out.
  • Whatever they are good at, encourage it! Whether their forte’ is math, sports or building things, encourage it! Without our multitasking, intelligent ADHDers, we would not have telephones, airplanes, or many of the inventions and discoveries we take for granted everyday. My above mentioned ADHD post expands on this, check it out!

Do I think these interventions will keep a truly ADHD kid from needing medication? Probably not, it depends on the severity of the ADHD. If I child has mild symptoms, the above interventions may be beneficial enough to avoid the need for meds. If a child has moderate to severe ADHD, they will need medication along with the above interventions.

I can’t expresses how important these “effective parenting” interventions can be, even for those children that need medication. Medication alone will not be enough for a child with true ADHD.

I’ve had many parents come back to me and tell me how much these interventions have helped make their life better. I can tell you personally, that they do make a difference in our family. I’ve shared Joshua’s story with you, he is the definition of Inattention and Hyperactive. If you haven’t read Parenting = Biggest Rewards + Most Frustrating Job You Will EVER Have!!, check it out for a little more insight on raising Josh. Joshua literally spun in circles for many years during his early childhood prior to the elimination of AFDs from his diet. I used to refer to him as Taz, the Tasmanian Devil. After a few days with no AFDs, the spinning stopped!! It was unreal!! It turned my little Tasmanian Devil back into a sweet, funny, and interesting little boy. He was still busy, but it was obvious that he had more control over his behavior.

Children with ADHD take extra time and effort, but the extra parenting will pay off someday when they are able to accomplish their goals. The time and effort will build self-esteem, intellect, and help your child grow to be the healthy and happy person you will always be proud of.

All kids take lots of parenting effort and energy. Each child comes with their own unique challenges, no doubt about it. Being the parent of an ADHD kid will take more patiences, time and effort than parenting the average kid. Your efforts will pay off though, I promise!!

Whatever parenting challenges you face, I hope you always remember to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

Small Dose #13 – Getting the “Wild Things” back to a Sleep Routine

HI! I wanted to write a short post to help you get those kiddos back into a bedtime routine before school starts.

It’s fun to hang with the “Wild Things” during the summer!

If you are anything like us, your kids have had a liberal or non-existant sleep schedule during summer. That is one of the fun things about summer when you are a kid!!

I recommend getting back into some sort of routine 1 -2 weeks before school actually starts. Kids don’t automatically just go to bed at 8:30 if they have been able to stay up until 10:00 for a few months.

So, here is my advice for getting things back on schedule:

1. Start your kids on a consistent bedtime. Pick whatever their average bedtime has been.

2. Every 2-3 nights make that bedtime earlier by 15 or 20 minutes, i.e.: start at 10pm a few nights, after 2 nights make it 9:45, then a few nights later make it 9:30, etc…

3. Turn the TV OFF!! If I teach you nothing else, please understand how important it is for kids to have about an hour of “No Screens” before they go to bed. They can look at a book, take a warm bath, play quietly in their room, anything that is relaxing for them. NO TV, ipad, Computer, video games, etc. This is the perfect opportunity to get them back into reading.

4. Make the routine before bed consistent. I’ve mentioned my “bath, book, bed” mantra in my blog on sleep. Kids function best when they have a consistent routine.

5. Tell ’em you love ’em, xoxo, and then it’s Lights Out!

For more information on kid’s sleep, please check out my blog Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development.

I hope you and your family have enjoyed the summer and have been able to spend some quality family time together.

Remember, it’s all about Enjoying the Journey!! 😉

Small Dose #10 – Take it back…

Have you ever said something and then immediately thought, I wish I could take that back?? I’m guessing your answer is Yes! 

We have all had those moments when we wish we could take back something we said.  I was chatting with a friend yesterday about the unfortunate reality that kids say things before they think, at least ours do. She introduced me to a cool parenting concept she calls “Take Backs”.    

Kellie told me when her kids say something that is inappropriate or out of line, she will look at them and give them a chance to take it back.  Her kids get only 1 “take back” a day. This gives them a chance to think about what they have said. If the behavior continues, all bets are off, and it’s mean mom time… Mean Moms are the best Moms is a post I wrote a few weeks ago. Mean Mom techniques are crucial for raising responsible, independent kids.

I think “take backs” is a wonderful idea. What a progressive, 21st century parenting tip, and it works!! If you ever met her kids, you would know they are being raised by a pretty good (single) mom. She says as a single mom she has to set guidelines, and stick to them. Her kids know that she means what she says! I think giving kids an opportunity to think about what they have said helps them learn to take some responsibility, and helps them build confidence and self esteem.

I thought this was a great idea, and wanted to share it with all of you! I think it could be especially helpful for my impulsive ADHD’er! I’ll be sure to share a few of her other secrets in future posts.

Good luck along your journey, and remember, we all say things we wish we could take back. Maybe focusing on this “take backs” concept will help our children actually think before they speak…Now wouldn’t that be nice! 😉

Praise & Encouragement go a long way…Be your child’s cheerleader!

Kids need to know that they are doing the right thing, and they depend on Mom and Dad to keep them in check!  We all have had our moments when our children are definitely not acting the way we raised them, or so we thought.

Remember, much of our teaching is by example, and much of what kids learn about behavior is observed.

I find myself raising my voice more often than I like, it is a bad habit that I am trying to stop.  There are days that Joshua just makes me lose it, and if I don’t walk away, I could turn into a Drill Sargent. When I say do something, I expect it to be done, you know what I’m saying??? I don’t want to have to repeat myself 2, 3, 4 or more times!! It definitely takes a lot of patience to be a parent, more than I ever imagined!

The louder I get, the less they hear…. The longer I talk, the less they hear…. 😦

It’s not that I have chosen to parent this way, there are just those days that I’m on the go and/or stressed over something, and I have less patience. On days like this, I am grateful for a husband that can balance me.  Fortunately, we balance each other well! 🙂 When he has his days, I have to call him down too. We talk about it, and know we need to keep our cool and address the issue at hand.  Instead of focusing on what Josh has done wrong, focusing on the behavior and how to change it is the key. I mention Joshua, because he IS the reason James Dobson wrote the books, Raising the Strong Willed Child and Bringing Up Boys! Which I highly recommend! Good info, and fun to read!

Consequences are the best answer to unacceptable behavior!! I have tried to chose my words carefully with my children.  It is important to mean what you say, and follow through! Don’t give empty threats; like Santa won’t bring you any toys……Really? I doubt it! I do tell Josh that I can take those toys Santa brings and put them in the basement!!  😉 This is the ultimate consequence for Josh. If we take a toy that he is currently obsessed with, he straightens right up.  We have started to take some of the toys and electronics away during the school week.  It makes for better focus, and actually more “creative time”!!  I’ve talked about the importance of what I call “creative time” for a child’s self esteem. Win – Win!

Praise is one of the most effective mechanisms of good parenting. Praising a child makes them feel good about what they have accomplished…making them feel good about their self… building self esteem! When children feel good about an accomplishment, it creates drive and ambition to create something else that mimics that ‘feel good’ feeling.

Encourage your child to reach for the stars!! Children are limited or unlimited by their surroundings. An environment that is negative and lonely can severely limit a child. Children want to be loved and accepted, it is a basic human need. If a child feels neglected, they will do whatever it takes to seek the attention they so desperately crave. These attention seeking behaviors can be acting out, crying, throwing toys, and in adolescents drug use and sexual promiscuity, just to name a few.  Encouraging a child to take that next step, like singing that song in front of the church congregation, or playing a sport, or building a lego house….. Whatever it is that they want to do, encourage it! 

Basically, if you praise and encourage your children for their positive actions and behaviors you will get positive behavior in return. Be your child’s cheerleader! Tell them they have nice manners.  Encourage them to do well on that test and on the playing field. Cheer them on! Be an example of happy, positive behavior!

Pick your battles. Let them express themselves! Encourage pink or purple hair, if that is what makes them happy, it’s only hair, long, short, or different colors, what’s the big deal (unless there is a special or formal event).  I saw two kids yesterday, one with pink and one with purple streaks. I thought it was a fun way for them to express themselves. BTW- Drew Elizabeth wants purple hair, we settled for a couple feathers in her hair the for the first time, but I’m all for the purple hair.  I’ll definitely keep you posted on this one!

I ask the teenagers that I see in the office what they want to do when they grow up, some know, some don’t.  I ask them what they like to do the most?  When they have free time, what is it they are doing? I tell them to take whatever it is that they like the most, and think about a career that is similar. I tell them they can take whatever it is they like the most in the world and use their imagination to find a way to make a living doing it. They look at me, smile a little bit, and I can see the wheels start turning.  Teens are a different bunch, they torment their parents, I’m not looking forward to the teen years.

SO, Praise your children & Encourage them to reach for the stars….It makes for happy healthy kids!! Happy, healthy kids are what this journey is all about, ENJOY!