About 2.4 million children ages 6 to 11 in the U.S. live with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a common neurodevelopmental disorder. These kids may act impulsively, be overly active, and have trouble paying attention or getting organized.
“It’s not that these children don’t want to listen or behave; they just have difficulty exhibiting those skills,” says Judith Hanono-Yaron, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Sheppard Pratt’s Outpatient Mental Health Center in Gaithersburg. “Parents must help teach them how to control their behavior and self-regulate. They have to lead the way, like a conductor of a symphony.”
Self-care and ADHD
Caring for a child with ADHD can be stressful and may lead to burnout if caregivers don’t prioritize their own well-being. “This stress can lead to fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, and marital problems,” Hanono-Yaron says.
Fortunately, she says there are many ways for parents and caregivers to engage in self-care. Keep your body healthy. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, spend time outdoors, and eat a healthy diet.
- Stay positive. “Remember your child isn’t a ‘bad kid’ or trying to anger you,” Hanono-Yaron says. “Try to laugh at the funny things they do rather than focusing on the negative. To prevent feeling guilty, avoid perfectionism and speaking negatively to yourself.”
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. “It’s easier said than done, but if not doing the dishes is going to help you prevent a meltdown, leave them in the sink until tomorrow,” she says.
- Get support. “Talk to a therapist, spend time with people who energize you, join a support group, or spend time with other parents of kids with ADHD,” she says.
- Re-energize. It’s important for caregivers to spend time away from the kids to recharge. “Have a date night, get together with adult friends, or pick up a new hobby,” she says. And don’t be afraid to ask for respite care to get these much-needed breaks if you don’t have other help.
Getting ahead of the stress
Understanding ADHD and planning for challenges can help make the day-to-day less stressful. “Children with ADHD thrive on structure and predictability. Let them know if there is going to be a change in routine so they know what to expect,” Hanono-Yaron says.
Caregivers must ensure kids get plenty of physical activity during the day and healthy sleep at night. “Establish a bedtime routine starting about an hour before getting in bed,” she says. “This can include turning off all electronics, taking a bubble bath, or reading books.”
And let them see you practicing self-care. “You are modeling this behavior. The more you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of your child,” she says.
As we long for the sunnier days of spring, now is the perfect time to rev up your self-care routine. Look to this BINGO card for plenty of ideas. Whenever you are feeling stressed or sad, grab this card and try to score a BINGO!
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