Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is thought to be the most common childhood mental health disorder. Whether your child has been newly diagnosed or you and your child have been on this journey for quite some time, here are some tips.
1. Build your circle of support. Whether it be medical practitioners, educators, therapists, close friends and/or family, choose the people you feel that best support you and your child. As the saying goes, ‘It takes a village,’ so lean on your village! Use them for increasing your knowledge on the diagnosis, bounce ideas off of them to find out what best suits you in supporting your child, and join forces in communicating a consistent message to your child about routine at school and home, when giving instructions in any setting, or defining behavior consequences. These are your people that you can lean on when you’re having a rough day or feeling joy on a good day.
2. Remove the label. When your child has been newly diagnosed, most parents’ initial reaction is to read up on as much as they can on what this disorder is all about. That makes sense - knowledge is key! However, the issue occurs when you start fitting them into a box. At the end of the day, each child is a unique individual. If you’re able to assess the root cause of their concerns, the signs and symptoms that present for them, their triggers, what seems to lessen behaviors, and what increases them, you, along with the help of your medical team, can then treat on an individualized basis from a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint.
3. Support the gut/brain connection. The gut/brain what? Yes! These are connected, and food can be a source of support for your child. Here are a few different ways. The brain makes a variety of chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that, when transmitted along the nerve connections in the brain, can cause calmness, happiness, and alertness. Protein sources play a role in creating these neurotransmitters and good fats, namely omega 3s, play a role in building the nerve connections. A diet that can help to reduce inflammation in the body can help to increase calm communication in the brain and therefore reduce hyperactive behavior, as well.
4. Bust a move! Movement and more movement. You would think with some of these little munchkins, how could you suggest more movement?! Movement is medicine. In fact, high intensity movement is the best source. In these little ones, this gross movement helps them to build spacial awareness in their world. It’s allowing them to connect with the earth’s movement and provides a ‘grounding’ to their ever-spinning thoughts in their head.
5. Behavior. ADHD diagnosis or not, guiding children in their behavior to be stand-up human beings is one of the hardest jobs as a parent! (If anyone has written a manual on this, send it over.) Children are not born with filters; their inner lights shine brightly. Encourage this light to continue to shine. Now balance this out with teaching social graces, about ‘being polite,’ and respecting other people’s space - go! This is not an easy task. However, by encouraging their light to shine, they will grow into a talented, dynamic, intelligent, and confident human being with an internal moral compass which, in the long run, can encourage those social graces.
6. Take care of yourself. Point number five is a perfect segue way into talking about parent self-care. Being in the presence of hyperactive behavior or repeating an instruction numerous times can be exhausting and will test your patience. This is okay. This doesn’t make you less of a parent. This makes you human. What is your way to fill up? What helps you to quiet your nervous system? What is it that brings you joy? Do that. Because we know that it will make you the best parent you can be.
7. Listen to the answers that come from being with your child. At the end of the day, after all the reading you do, all the listening you spend time doing with various practitioners, all the tips you get from strangers, take it all in for consideration and then leave it at the door. With any dilemma that comes up for your child and/or family, the most honest, pure, and helpful answers on how to navigate through will be right in front of you. This is not to say that it is your responsibility for ‘fixing’ them singlehandedly on your own. This is meant to comfort you in knowing the answers are right in front of you! No two individuals or families are alike and what works for one versus the other will be different. So, when you take some time to marinate in your environment together, what is it that your child needs? What is it that you need to feel healthy navigating through this? The answers will come if you let them.
Hillary Dinning is a naturopathic doctor based in Calgary with a focus in pediatric medicine. Working with ADHD, autism, genetic differences, digestion, skin and hormones, her passion lies in supporting children to grow into healthy and vibrant human beings! For more information, visit thepediatricnaturopath.com.
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