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ADHD Parent Tip: Changes in Lifestyle

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, first make sure you, your child, family members and teachers  understand ADHD in positive terms. I tell kids, “You’re a champion in the making.  You have a race car for a brain.  You’re on your way to winning many victories!  But you do have one problem.  You have bicycle brakes. In order for you to become the champion you can become, we need to strengthen your brakes so you can slow down and stop when you need to.”  Race-car-brain-with-bicycle-brakes is actually a very accurate description of ADHD, and it casts it in a positive light, which is crucial in getting the most positive outcome.

Then part of the treatment plan should include: Changes in Lifestyle. the major areas to focus on here include:

1.  Work on developing habits, routines, rituals and the like to improve organization and time management skills.  You can do this as his parent, the teacher can pitch in, and you might also hire a tutor or a coach to help in this effort.

2.  Make sure your child get tons of physical exercise.   Exercise is a powerful tool in helping ADHD.  Never deny these kids recess or sports! Make sure your child does not become a couch potato or video game potato. Not getting exercise is as bad for the brain as getting exercise is good for it.

3.  Make sure your child gets at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Often kids with ADHD stay up way too late .  If you do not get enough sleep, you’ll look like you have ADHD whether you have it or not.

4.  Meditation can really help.  If he/she is willing to do it regularly, it can be as effective as medication.  Sue Smalley, a professor at UCLA, has studied this and is coming out with a book called FULLY PRESENT documenting her research and showing how effective meditation is in helping ADHD.

5.  Nutrition matters.  Eat whole foods as much as possible.  Try to avoid junk food, sugar, additives, and dyes. Just don’t have them in the house. Don’t self-medicate with carbs.  Try a fish-oil supplement.

6.  Make sure your child has some project he is “into,” something he can look forward to and achieve success doing.  It need not be a school subject, just something he likes, is good at, and has value.

7.  Make sure your child lives a positively connected life: connections to friends, family, a pet, nature, some spiritual practice, favorite places and activities, clubs, teams, groups—all these positive connections build the kind of confidence and joy that leads to a great life.  (I call this the other vitamin C, vitamin Connect.)

You might also want to consider  Alternative treatments — more on this on the ADD/ADHD treatments page

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