6 Ways Parents Can Thrive at Home with Children on the ADHD and Autism Spectrum (ASD)

With so many parents currently finding themselves quarantined at home with children, more and more experts are stepping up to the plate to offer advice. From homeschool tips to unschooling ideas, schedules and activities, it seems like there has never been so much information being provided to parents. In addition, parents are ready to listen!

But, for parents at home with children on the ADHD or ASD spectrum, some of the advice being shared is far from helpful. In fact, trying to apply the general advice in these situations can actually do way more harm than good, leaving parents feeling like they’re failing — and potentially with no end in sight.

Don’t give up!

As a parent, you have the skills you need to work with your child. You just have to remember how.

By using this time “in quarantine” with your child, you can discover new ways to connect and communicate. And, your child will find ways to do the same, even if that’s non-verbally. Remember, so much can be communicated by body language and even just a look! As you work with your child each day, do your best to re-learn their language. Doing this will help you and your child continue to thrive in the weeks to come.

Another important thing to remember when being at home with your child is that they really are trying. Even when it seems like they’re not, they are. This can be incredibly difficult for parents with children with ADHD or children identified on the ASD spectrum to remember, especially when it seems like the opposite is actually happening. But believing that your child wants to be doing well — and in some cases just can’t — will help you navigate the variety of issues that arise.

Rather than getting mad or upset at your child for their behavior, dig deeper and ask yourself “why?”. Why is this behavior happening? What is the root cause?

Having your child fear punishment will only make matters worse.

Your child is unique. Some of the things you think should be part of their childhood just isn’t right for them. And that’s okay. Use this time at home with your child to start recognizing all of the “shoulds” you currently believe and are holding onto. As you do, begin to replace them with your child’s own truth. It’s okay to redefine childhood. It’s okay to let go of your expectations so that you can begin to reshape childhood in a way that allows your child to succeed and thrive.

This time at home with your child really can be a gift. As you embrace who your child is, you will find new and exciting ways to connect with them, creating experiences that everyone can enjoy.

Below are six tips to help parents with children struggling with ADHD or whose children are on the ASD spectrum to thrive while spending time together at home…

1. Study your child. As his or her parent, you are already the best expert on your child. But, children change (faster than most parents like!). Take advantage of this extra time together by becoming even more of an expert on your child. What helps them? What challenges them? What makes them uncomfortable? The more you can “study” and observe your child, the better you’ll be able to handle new situations.

2. Honor your child. All children have quirks and habits, but those on the ADHD or ASD spectrum tend to have even more. And, unfortunately, those unique quirks aren’t talked about as much, leaving parents left worrying and struggling all on their own. Use this time together to practice really accepting who your child is, honoring their uniqueness. The more you can do this, and the less you find yourself trying to compare, the happier everyone will be.

3. Keep going. There will definitely be days (and maybe already have been) when you want to throw in the towel — don’t. As difficult as one day might be, there’s no guarantee that the next day will be the same. In fact, it’s almost a fact that it won’t. Take each day one at a time and leave space for tomorrow’s growth and improvement.

4. Practice consistency. Children on the ASD and ADHD spectrum need even more reinforcement than their peers. The more consistent you can be, the better everything will go. Not only will your child be able to learn more, but their behavior will thrive with consistency, too. Let your behaviors be predictable so that your child can have the ability to relax and feel safe.

5. Develop a schedule. Again, all children do better within a schedule, but children on the ASD or ADHD spectrum need schedules and structure even more. Plan out your days and go over the schedule regularly. Find a place in your home to write out the schedule so that your child (if they’re able to read) can review it on their own. If and when a change takes place, address it with your child, giving them an opportunity to express how they feel and what they need.

6. Remember to have fun. As much as you may be worrying about your child missing out on formal education opportunities, remember that having fun and giving your child a chance to play is just as important. Children really do learn a lot from playing, even when that play is unstructured and self-guided. Count each smile and laugh a win, not just how many worksheets they completed or questions they answered correctly. Having fun with your child is a fantastic way to bond, and that bond will last even when this quarantine has passed.

As difficult as this current situation is for families, there still is a silver lining. A lot of good really can come out of this extra time we all get to spend together. Take time to learn about your child’s interests. Create a schedule they can count on and react predictably to their behavior. If a task proves difficult for your child, try to break it down in steps. And, whenever you need, throw out tasks altogether and try again tomorrow.

And, above all, remember to take care of yourself. The stronger you feel, the better you’ll be able to be the parent your child needs.

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