Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.
Caregivers should talk to their children about ADHD. Caregivers can help their children understand that ADHD is just like any other medical condition. No one chooses to have medical problems. That may sound ridiculously obvious to adults. However, children often conclude there is something inherently wrong with them. Try to listen to their concerns and worries. Then, correct misunderstandings with factual information. It may help to ask a healthcare professional speak to them as well.
While a child does not choose to have ADHD, to a large degree, they do get to choose what to do about it. This is where the caregiver's confidence in their child becomes so important. Emphasize you have in confidence in your child's ability to handle their ADHD challenges. Your confidence in them helps them to develop their own self-confidence.
Kids with ADHD often feel as if they can't do anything right. This frustration breeds discouragement and defeat. It seems to them that everyone is focusing on all the things they cannot do well. Caregivers must offset this attention to their child's limitations by highlighting their abilities.
As we have emphasized, children with ADHD have unique strengths. Their gifts are often in areas such as the arts, athletics, computers, or mechanical ability. Caregivers can build upon these strengths. This focus on strengths fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment. To the greatest extent possible, caregivers should also avoid using these enjoyable activities as rewards for good behavior. Likewise, they should not withhold them, as a form of punishment. When children engage in activities they enjoy and do well, it provides a powerful counterbalance to the sense of defeat they often feel.
Children frequently confuse their behavior with who they are as a person. From their limited understanding, if they engage in "bad" behavior, then they themselves must be bad. Caregivers should frequently tell children they are loved and supported, regardless of their behavior. Of course, on some days it may be difficult to remember this! Yet, those are the days when it is even more important to have compassion for your child's difficulties and to express your love. It helpful if caregivers and children view themselves as a team. Together, they unite against the common 'enemy' ADHD. Remind your child that you will face every challenge with them, and celebrate every success.
Another way to boost your child's self-esteem is regularly spend some one-on-one time with them. This special time together can be something simple like getting an ice cream cone; taking the dog for a walk; or, playing a game. The goal is to have enjoyable time together without any particular demands. These positive, stress-free interactions fortify their own self-confidence and self-esteem.