Last Modified: January 23, 2024 | Published: November 26, 2023
Is your child struggling to focus and pay attention? Try this list of parenting tips. These strategies will result in an immediate improvement in your child’s behavior.
These parenting tools can help if your child’s focusing issues are from ADHD. These interventions also help children with anxiety, trauma, or depression. You can start seeing progress today.
These ADHD strategies can be really helpful for helping your child work on their focus and attention.
ADHD strategies for parents
1. Learn about ADHD and how it impacts your child
Parenting a child with ADHD is tough. Your child’s brain is wired differently, and due to this genetic difference, your child needs your patience and understanding. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder and not a discipline problem.
2. Use rewards instead of consequences
You may hear yourself saying no dessert until you eat your dinner. Try instead to use positive reinforcement.
Try saying eat your dinner, and then you can have dessert. Start with the desired task and have the reward come after the desired task.
A simple way to do this is to say to your child first, you do this, and then you can have this. This simple technique turns the desired activity into a reward.
When possible, have your child earn what is important to them. For example, if your child completes their homework, they can earn electronics time. If they don’t finish their homework, they don’t earn electronics.
Kids with ADHD respond better to rewards over consequences.
3. Try a first-then strategy with your child
A first-then strategy is a strategy for helping you and your child get what they want.
For example, if you would like your child to clean their room and your child would like to go to their friend’s house, use a first-then approach.
You would tell your child, “First, you pick up all the toys off the floor and put them in their appropriate baskets. Then you can go to your friend’s house.”
First, we do this, and then we do that. First, we go to the doctor, then we go to the playground.
Offer something fun at the end of something that is not fun.
Start with the challenging task and finish with something more rewarding.
4. Create a visual schedule for your child’s daily routine
First, get a whiteboard for your child and put it up in your child’s bedroom. On this, you write out your child’s daily schedule.
Write the next day’s schedule on your child’s whiteboard at the end of each day.
You want to include what tasks must be completed in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
List the times these tasks will be taking place. For example, if you need your child to be ready to go in the morning by 8 am, list the morning routine they need to accomplish in manageable steps.
Include special activities, doctor’s appointments, time at a friend’s or grandparent’s house, homework time, dinner time, playtime, nightly bath time, storytime, etc.
5. Have your child go for a swim
Research has shown that the bilateral movement of swimming can help with attention, focus, and emotional regulation. If your child is hyperactive, it can help them burn excess energy.
If swimming is not an option for your family, include other ways to exercise, like going to a local park so your child can run around.
6. Have your child start the day with a nutritious breakfast
Have your child eat fresh foods, healthy fats, and quality protein sources. This helps your child sustain focus and attention.
Have your child eat real food. At breakfast, add these foods into your child’s diet: nut butter, avocados, sausages, eggs, and no-sugar-added Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and honey.
If you are struggling to get your child to eat nutritious food, it may help to talk with your child’s healthcare provider.
7. Teach executive functioning skills to your child
Read books like Smart but Scattered and help your child learn executive functioning skills. Children who have trouble focusing often need extra support with executive functioning skills.
We use executive functioning skills to plan our day, organize and break down tasks, and remember instructions.
8. Have a consistent bedtime and wake-up time for your child
Sleep is essential to your child’s mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, insufficient sleep in childhood can mimic the appearance of many mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. A lack of sleep can also exasperate pre-existing mental health challenges.
Fun fact: 25 percent of children who are diagnosed with ADHD are not getting enough sleep, and it is a sleep problem or lack of sleep that is the cause of behavior problems, hyperactivity and trouble focusing. Additional research shares that getting enough sleep improves a child’s ability to focus, pay attention, and improve impulse control.
If your child is struggling with sleep, think about getting a sleep study for your child and read our post on helping your child sleep.
9. Have a designated homework space for your child
This area is quiet, clean, and free of distractions. Children who struggle with focus will become off task by random noises, toys, and phones.
If your child can access their toys or phone, it is harder for them to focus on a more boring task.
It can help to have a designated spot where your child puts their phone during homework and sleep time. This spot is away from their homework space and bedroom.
Sometimes, electronics are needed for your child to complete their school work. When possible, have your child use their Chrome book or computer. It can be difficult to know what assignments need electronics and what work can be done independently. A great way to find this out is to check out your child’s classroom home page.
Your child’s teacher will often post assignments, due dates, and materials needed in a special location on the classroom webpage. Ask your child’s teacher where this information is posted. This can be a great way to hold your child accountable.
10. Keep your child’s phone out of their homework space
Have a home for your child’s phone. This is where your child puts their phone when they need to focus on other tasks. It can be a basket by the front door, a particular spot in the kitchen, or your bedroom.
To set this up, have a family meeting. In this meeting, let everyone know that their phone needs to be in the designated location when tasks are to be completed, such as finishing homework and family time. Decide on a fixed location together.
Try to participate in this strategy with your child. When your child is struggling to not be with their phone, try a first-then approach. Say to your child first, you do your homework, and then you can be on your phone.
11. Take homework rest breaks in a separate space
When your child takes a break from homework, spend that time in a separate area. You want your child to associate homework and focus with one space. Having fun and relaxing in a different space.
12. Use a timer to help with homework and other tasks
When your child has a task, use a timer to show how much time your child has left to complete a task.
Timers are great because they can make tasks more manageable for your child.
This can help your child understand that the job you are asking them to do will not last forever.
For example, if you want your child to focus on their school work for 20 minutes, set a timer for 20 minutes.
Next, use a first-then approach.
Tell your child, “I am setting a timer for 20 minutes. During this time, you will work on your math homework.” then say, “Afterward, you can play with your legos for ten minutes.”
As the parent, you set the timer and check in with your child.
Use this technique to help your child complete homework, chores, free time, how much time before bed, etc.
At Cadey, our favorite timers are the time timers.
Timers are a great visual and let your child know how much time they have left to complete specific tasks.
13. Find ways to nurture yourself
Having a child who struggles with focusing and impulsivity is challenging. To have the patience needed for your child, it is important to find ways to take care of yourself. This can be one of the most challenging tasks for a parent.
Find small things that bring peace and enjoyment to your life.
Some things to try can include:
- Waking up five minutes early and sitting in silence
- Enjoying a cup of tea
- Reading an inspirational quote
- Meditating with the Calm or Headspace app
- Calling a friend on the way to work
- Exchanging babysitting with a friend and spending the night with yourself or someone you enjoy spending time with
- Moving up your child’s bedtime by 30 minutes and giving that time back to yourself
- Going for a walk
- Use an exercise app and add movement into your day
- Listening to an audiobook while you clean
- Turning off Netflix and getting extra sleep
- Drinking more water
- Have your kids help with the cleaning on weekends to free up time. Yes, at first, it will take extra time to show your child what is expected of them and to demonstrate the task. Your child may not be happy about having to help out in the beginning, but with guidance and follow-through, your kids can learn to pitch in and help with weekly tasks.
- If you are lucky enough to have a partner who can help, take turns sleeping in on the weekends. One partner gets to sleep in on Saturday while the other partner helps the kids in the morning, and then it switches on Sunday.
Great job exploring these strategies to parent your child with ADHD! Being consistent with using these tools will make a big difference.