There isn’t a handbook on how to raise a child with
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Explore information, support, and opportunities to connect with other parents of children with ADHD.
The best way to help your child manage ADHD is to work closely with his or her doctor to create a plan that’s right for your child’s specific needs. Ask questions, learn as much as you can and take an active role in your child’s health. Start by exploring the resources below.
Keep a similar schedule every day, from morning until lights out. Include time for homework, activities, and so on. Write down any changes to the schedule in advance.
Have a place for everything.
And keep everything in its place: clothing, books, etc.
Organize your calendar.
Write down upcoming homework assignments and tests. Plan out steps and key dates for longer-term projects.
Post a chart of household chores.
Check off items as they’re completed.
Be clear and consistent with your child.
Children, with or without, ADHD need rules they can follow.
Praise good behavior.
Children with ADHD often expect criticism. Reward them when they follow the rules.
Respond when rules are broken.
Children want to be independent and try new things. If they break the rules, stay calm and be matter-of-fact in your response. Keeping your cool can be challenging, so step away to collect yourself when you need to.
Try a tutor or coach.
A tutor may be able to help your child with a wide array of practical activities.
“I live with a child and husband who both have ADHD. Keeping everyone together is hard, so my routines are my lifesaver.”
– Real life advice from Erin Z., actual caregiver for child with ADHD
Take advantage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Section 504 (for short) provides things like a recorder for note-taking, a quiet place to work, and access to a computer in school for written work.
Read the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
IDEA has a provision called the Individualized Education Program (IEP). It’s a comprehensive plan for addressing your child’s specific learning needs.
“Celebrate whatever progress is made, no matter what. And talk openly and honestly about the effort that goes into that progress.”
– Real life advice from Anna M., actual caregiver for child with ADHD
Provide a stress ball.
A small toy or other object that your child can squeeze or play with discreetly in his or her seat may be helpful.
Limit screen time.
Instead of sitting with a computer or tablet, or in front of the television, encourage your child to engage in a physical activity.
Playing a sport—or at least running around before and after school—can help a child with ADHD. Make sure your child never misses recess or a P.E. class.
Even if it's only walking across the room to sharpen pencils or put dishes away, ask your child with ADHD to run an errand or complete a task for you.
“I have three other children that do not have ADHD, but our whole family follows the same procedures. That way my son with ADHD doesn't feel left out.”
– Real life advice from Tessa C., actual caregiver for child with ADHD
Provide necessary materials.
Ensure your child has all the necessary materials to do homework (paper, calculator, pencils, etc.) available in their workspace.
Use color coding to help remind your child what goes where. A folder designated for completed homework that travels back and forth to home and school can be helpful for some students.
Keep pets in another room and set up a workplace that faces away from windows or a television.
Use a timer.
Help your child know the difference between work time and break time with a timer. Schedule 5-10 minute breaks during homework to allow your child a chance to move around.
“We try to stick to a ‘one thing at a time’ policy. If you are playing with something, you need to clean it up and put it away before you move onto something else. We have a small home, so keeping everything in its place is important. This is also another routine that sets boundaries for what is acceptable. We want him to learn responsibility with his belongings.”
– Real life advice from Michelle C., actual caregiver for child with ADHD
Make sure your child knows your love is unconditional.
Let your child know that you’ll get through the good and not-so-good moments together.
Play to their strengths.
Many children with ADHD have strengths in areas like art and computers, just to name a few.
Make time just for them.
Special time together can help your child maintain feelings of self-worth.
“I like to have my child involved in sports and after-school activities. I find that sports get out all of his energy in a positive and rewarding way he can be proud of.”
– Real life advice from Tiemere C., actual caregiver for child with ADHD
Browse through the following organizations and consider consulting your child’s guidance counselor for training on specific skills to help your child get organized, manage time, and practice good social skills.
ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO)
A professional membership organization for ADHD coaches and resources for the public.
Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
Articles, personal stories, interviews with ADHD professionals, book reviews, and links to other ADHD-related sites.
Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
National nonprofit organization working to improve the lives of affected people through education, advocacy, and support.
ADDConnect: An ADHD Community From ADDitude Magazine
Resource for families and adults living with ADHD and related conditions and the professionals who work with them.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Part of the National Institutes of Health whose mission is to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction.
National Institute of Mental Health
Part of the National Institutes of Health whose mission is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services whose mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.