Parenting strategies for kids with attention issues

Published in Rehabilitation Services, For the Health of It Author: Brenda Konietzko, Occupational Therapist

Being the parent of a child with attention difficulties can be frustrating and overwhelming. I see it on the faces of parents — the feeling of helplessness. But you can help your child become more successful in life.

Tips for helping your child

  • Provide structure. A child with attention difficulties needs a structured environment to help him/her focus. For instance, make a daily schedule visible on a chalk or white board that the child can refer back to at home. Talk to your child’s teacher about implementing this at school.
  • Help your child make a schedule. A schedule will help the child avoid procrastination.
  • Repeat directions. Speak them, write them down and repeat them. Your child needs to hear things more than once.
  • Memory is often a problem. Teach your child little tricks like mnemonics, using flashcards and making lists/notes. Such as HOMES for the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
  • Break down large tasks into small tasks. This is critical. Large tasks quickly overwhelm the child and might cause emotional outbursts — “I’ll never be able to do that!”
  • Set limits and boundaries. Do it consistently, predictably, promptly and plainly. Discipline can be maintained best by establishing a few consistent rules with immediate consequences whenever each rule is broken. Rules should be phrased positively in terms of what your child should do — “feet on the floor” instead of “get your feet off the couch.”
  • Make frequent eye contact. You can “reel in” a child with eye contact.
  • Monitor progress and provide feedback often. It will help your child stay on track and know what the expectations are.
  • Seek out and emphasize success as much as possible. Your child loves encouragement. He/she drinks it up and grows from it.
  • Use feedback that helps your child to become self-observant. “Do you know what you just did?” or “Why do you think that girl looked sad when you said that to her?”
  • Take time to listen. Try to understand your child’s perspective.
  • Use rewards and incentives. Find out what motivates/interests your child. It’s guaranteed to make chores and schoolwork easier and more productive.