Let’s face it. One of the problems associated with ADHD is all about learning to make the right choices. That translates into making the right decision about what to eat, wear, do, learn, play and so on. The list is endless.
Impulsivity is fun?
Making impulse decisions can sometimes be a lot of fun- just for a change! But when a child or adult has ADHD, that impulsivity is like a landmine ready to blow up in his face. Impulsivity hinders the executive functioning of the brain and thinking about consequences is just fairy tale stuff for the ADHD sufferer.
We should not be surprised at all to read that those kids with ADHD are twice as likely to end up obese than their non ADHD peers. That is the result of a study (the University of Massachusetts Medical School) just published which shows that a group of 200 boys were followed into adulthood and then had their weight checked. Those with ADHD at the age of 41 were found to be heavier (by almost 20 pounds) than their non ADHD counterparts.
Bad choices affect quality of life
Obviously making poor food choices is at the root of the problem. Bad choices about the following can play havoc in an ADHD child’s life :-
- How to organize homework
- How to approach any learning task
- How to prioritize
- How to decide what to eat or drink
What about the ADHD meds?
Surely ADHD medications can help children and adults to make the right choices? Well, the Voices on Identity, Childhood, Ethics and Stimulants (VOICES) study found that this was indeed the case and the children interviewed felt that decision making and behavior all improved. The problem is that children must learn these skills sooner or later as otherwise they will be on medication all their lives. That is a very controversial issue.
One Swedish study on criminals showed that once they were off the drugs, their re-offending rate shot up!
This is where proper parenting and teaching life skills comes into the equation. If these are lacking in any way, the ADHD child will never be able to learn to make the right choices as he progresses into adulthood.
An interesting remark was made by Dr.Ilina Singh (King’s College London) when interviewing kids who were on ADHD meds. That study was partly funded by the Wellcome Trust.
The kids told her they felt that making the right decision was easier. But, as she so rightly points out, the drugs CANNOT make the decision for them!
That is why parenting is absolutely crucial because providing the right structure and framework in helping their children make the right decision encourages autonomy and self reliance. No drug can do that.
How can parents help their ADHD children to make the right choices?
- Learning. Find out how best your child learns. See my article on How to Learn. After all, ADHD is not a learning disability although they do tend to have attention problems and hyperactivity does not help. But tasks have to be broken down and liaison with the teacher is essential to make sure you are both on the same page.
- Make sure your kids know about ADHD and what it means. Dr. Singh found that many kids knew very little about their condition. Talking about the limitations and the talents that many ADHD kids have can help them in coping and hopefully, making right decisions
- Is your child making the right choices as regards friends? Sometimes, they become a slave or sometimes they will bully the new friend. You can sometimes spot suitable friends with similar personalities and steer your child in the right direction.
- Keep structure and routines secure. If these are enforced and various memory aids are in place, it makes any decisions that much easier. An ADHD friendly home can make life so much simpler to navigate for everyone. Do not be afraid to use as many post its as you like.
- Behavior boundaries. Limit criticism to severe breaches of the rules. Use the four to one rule where praise for good behavior always outnumbers the bad.
- When temper takes a hold, try to talk about it afterwards when things are calmer. Start by saying that we have a choice, we can either kick the furniture or we can react in a different, more civilized way. Help the child to think through what his actions can lead to.
- Involve your child in making food choices so that he or she can choose favorite foods which are healthy. Talk about why certain foods are bad and what they can lead to such as mood swings, sugar spikes, lethargy and so on.
- Talk about organizing the day so as not to get tired or hungry. Again the child has to be involved, choosing when to have a healthy snack before going out and so on. Establish rules about bedtime and explain why they work.
These then are some of the ways that we can involve our children in learning to make right choices. Now isn’t that much better than putting pressure on your doctor to prescribe Ritalin just because your child is not behaving properly or not doing so well at school?
Robert Locke MBE is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD and related child health problems. He has just published an ebook on Amazon called ‘Facts About ADHD Children – Tips For ADHD Parenting’. You can download this book FREE from Saturday 1 June to Monday 3 June, 2013.
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