If Ogden Nash was right that, “Parents were invented to make children happy by giving them something to ignore,” no wonder there are so many happy children and frustrated parents. As we discussed in this week’s newsletter, focusing, shifting, and dividing attention is constantly needed throughout the day. So what’s a parent to do? Plenty!

Some of the best recommendations on what parents can do to help their children with attention problems come from the National Resource Center on AD/HD. Even if your child does not have diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (a diagnosis full of controversy), the suggestions may still fit your needs.

The following is a modified selection of suggestions by the National Resource Center on AD/HD:

  1. Don’t waste limited emotional energy on self-blame.
  2. Learn all you can about AD/HD.
  3. Make sure your child has a comprehensive assessment.
  4. Become an effective case manager.
  5. Take an active role in forming a team that understands AD/HD and wants to help.
  6. Learn all you can about AD/HD and your child’s educational rights.
  7. Become your child’s best advocate.
  8. Seek professional help for evaluation, treatment, and support.
  9. Work together to support your child. Invite everyone to be on the team.
  10. Learn the tools of successful behavior management.
  11. Find out if YOU have AD/HD.
  12. Focus on certain behaviors and provide clear, consistent expectations, directions and limits.
  13. Set up an effective discipline system.
  14. Help your child learn from mistakes.
  15. Tell your child that you love and support him or her unconditionally.
  16. Assist your child with social skills.
  17. Identify your child’s strengths. It is important to develop “islands of competence” for your child.
  18. Set aside a daily “special time” to spend alone with your child.
  19. Enroll your child in an attention training program.
  20. Evaluate all available tools including medical, counseling, and education interventions and attention improving programs.

Just as when working with your child’s teacher on improving attention, follow-up is crucial within your own family. Set up a family meeting to create a plan, review progress, and tweak the plan based on a combination of everyone’s feedback on its usefulness. Review what is working and what needs changing, alter the plan as needed, then end with scheduling the next meeting. No need for punishment or extravagant rewards, just an agreed upon, ongoing, updated plan.

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