If you are the parents of an ADHD child, you may worry, and rightfully so, that the diagnosis can make your child feel labeled or set apart from other kids. It is important that your child not feel defined by ADHD. Having ADHD is like being left-handed; it’s only a part of who you are.
Try to answer any questions your child has about ADHD, but keep the answers simple and brief. Some older children may want to read a book about ADHD, but they don’t need to become experts on ADHD – just experts on living their lives as fully and well as they can.
How To Help
One of the most important things for the parents of a child with ADHD to do is help that child feel good about who he or she is. You’ll need to search out and promote the positives – both about life and about your child – even as you deal with the all-too-obvious negatives. If your child feels good about who he is and about what life has to offer, he will do far better than if he does not.
In his book Superparenting for ADD, Dr. Hallowell encourages parents to build up their child’s confidence and self-esteem by creating what he calls “the cycle of excellence.”
The Cycle of Excellence
The “cycle of excellence” consists of five key actions that work together synergistically to help “unwrap the gifts” of the ADHD mind.
- Create a “connected” environment for your child, full of emotional connections to people, places, and activities they love. A “connected” child feels positively engaged in the world, and that feeling is like an inoculation against despair. The great beauty of a connected childhood is that it is free and available to everyone.
- PLAY – any activity in which a child’s imagination gets involved and the mind lights up.
- PRACTICE – Practice that emerges out of enthusiastic play lays down habits of discipline that endure.
- ACHIEVE MASTERY – getting better at an activity that is both challenging and important. Achieving mastery does not mean becoming the best at a particular activity. What matters is making progress in that activity.
- RECOGNITION – The fifth, and final, action in the “cycle of excellence” is to receive recognition, which naturally flows from achieving a certain level of mastery in a difficult activity. This doesn’t mean you have to win a prize or get your name in the newspaper. It just means that someone sees, values, and acknowledges the progress that has been made. Such recognition solidifies the confidence, self-esteem, and motivation that mastery engendered, thus completing the cycle.
The single most important treatment for ADHD – or for any child at any age – is to enter into this “cycle of excellence.”