Children diagnosed with ADHD have a harder time choosing and developing a healthy lifestyle. That isn’t to say it's impossible, but it will require thoughtful, creative, and collaborative planning on your end. With just a few extra, yet simple steps, both you and your child will empower yourselves.
Swap out the Sugary Drinks for Water
Empowering healthier choices starts with what’s available in your fridge. Many children with ADHD do not consume enough water which exasperates their symptoms. On top of that, studies state that children with ADHD will opt for a sugary beverage over water.
If your child enjoys beverages with sugar, try to swap out any drinks with aspartame. This chemical wreaks havoc on your child’s inattention. As an alternative, select drinks with unrefined sugars or lower sugar content. Gradually reduce and replace any drinks with more than 25 grams of sugar which is the maximum daily amount recommended by pediatricians for children ages 2 to 18.
You can also try naturally sweetened waters. Infuse water with a variety of citrus fruits and a bit of honey for taste. You can make this into a family challenge as well by placing an accountability chart with stickers by the fridge. When you perform an active part in being healthier, your child will model that behavior.
Increase Physical Activity
Everyone knows that physical activity helps to improve not only our visual appearance but also improves our mood and focus. Children with ADHD benefit tremendously when physical activity is built into their daily schedule. Not only that, several studies state that when a child with ADHD increases his or her activity, their executive functions drastically improve. This is vital in helping to aid in your child’s disorganization and inattention.
Check with your local community about intramurals or after-school sports teams to help increase your child’s physical activity. If your child isn’t into team-based sports, try incorporating a walk to your local park, a bike ride to a favorite spot, or get a game of tag going with some neighborhood friends. As long as your child is moving on a daily basis, your child will begin creating healthier choices within their daily routine.
Collaborate on a Set Bedtime And Stick to It
Sticking to a bedtime routine helps everyone manage their expectations, and it also helps your child bring valuable habits into adulthood. Your child will always recall what comes next, and by giving your child the power of choice in their bedtime routine, you create more autonomy for him or her.
The two of you can discuss what you want to see happen at bedtime. Avoid any heavy meals and any screen time before bed. A relaxing bath or shower, some reading, and talking about your favorite part of the day is a great way to build a nightly routine that the two of you can enjoy and share together.
Anticipate Extra Time for Transitions
Whenever you urge a child to switch to a different task, you’re going to face some push-back - When you ask a child with ADHD to change gears, it can sometimes feel like you made a request in a different language. To avoid frustration for both parties, try to include more time between transitions.
When you know you have to leave your house at a certain time, give your child notification that you need to leave. Many parents will tell their children to stand on the magic carpet (the rug closest to the door) when they’re ready. It makes getting out the door exciting. Alternatively, you can encourage your child to get ready by setting visual timers on your phone or tablet for when a task needs to be finished. That way, when the timer goes off, your child’s attention will shift from you to the timer. No longer will you be the bad guy - because you’re placing the expectation visibly onto the timer, thus onto your child.
Create Visual Cues
Make everything visual for your child. These visual reminders around your house will promote your child to build confidence and independence. A visual schedule is extremely helpful because your child can always anticipate what to expect. Place the schedule in a high-traffic area; a place you know he or she can see it. Review it together as part of your morning routine. This anticipation and the daily reminder will promote your child to feel ready for the day. Eventually, your child may even begin to review the routine without you.
You can use visual cues for anything: potty training, household chores, even mealtimes. These reminders eliminate the abstract expectations and firmly pronounce them concrete. So, when in doubt, make it a visual.
You are your child’s most influential advocate. Your patience and tenacity go a long way. It’s up to you to continue modeling a healthy lifestyle but to also support those invisible ADHD barriers to help your child thrive.
Making these slight changes will have a positive, lasting effect on you and your child. The authentic change will not and can not happen overnight, but if you and your child become teammates in making expectations visible, you both will come to find a healthier, more joyful lifestyle and relationship with one another.
Allison, owner of FLORAMENTE: Holistic Solutions
All material and information presented on this website are intended to be used for educational purposes only. Any statements made about products, supplements, or treatments have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Our services are not intended to diagnose or treat physical illness. We are not diagnosticians nor do we treat mental illness. Please consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise routine, or lifestyle. The information on this website is not intended to replace mental health therapy.