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Child Development

Coping Mechanisms for ADHD Child: Proven Strategies to Improve Their Quality of Life

May 11, 2023
Table of Contents

    ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects how a child's brain processes information and other stimuli in their environment. As a result, children with ADHD need coping skills to help manage their ADHD symptoms.

    Two trademark ADHD symptoms are impulsivity and fidgeting. Impulsive behavior and fidgeting or the need for movement can cause discipline issues at school and home, communication issues, and the misconception that your child is rude or misbehaving.

    When you help your child learn coping skills to decrease or control these behaviors, your child's attention span increases, supporting task completion and building stronger relationships.

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    Coping Mechanisms for ADHD that Will Improve a Child's Life

    All of us use coping mechanisms daily. Whether listening to music on the subway to drown out the noise of other passengers or placing a notepad next to our computer to jot down thoughts and ideas, these and other tricks help us maintain peace of mind and productivity and get through our day.

    Individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder need to learn specific skills and when to implement them to help them complete tasks and control impulsive behaviors.

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    Encourage physical activity and exercise to reduce impulsive behavior

    Physical activities are beneficial for the body and the mind. Children with ADHD seem to have excess energy. So allowing them to move about when needed can improve focus and reduce hyperactivity.

    Neurotypical kids significantly benefit from activities that cross the midline—for example, using their right hand to reach across their chest to pick up something on the left. In addition, crossing the midline improves gross and fine motor coordination, which assists kids with ADHD who may struggle with handwriting or other activities that engage their hands.

    Physical activity that crosses the midline also integrates multiple senses, including vestibular, proprioceptive, and visual input. Integrating these senses impacts a child's ability to learn, engage socially, play, and participate in self-care.

    Practice mindfulness and meditation

    Mindfulness and meditation aren't just for adults but also incredibly beneficial for young children. A quick search online will lead you to dozens of mindfulness and yoga videos designed explicitly for children.

    If your child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder struggles with the hyperactivity portion, mindfulness may benefit them. When parents help a child become aware of their behaviors, emotions, and impulses through mindfulness, it allows them to manage their symptoms better. Mindfulness and meditation can help ADHD children calm down and assist with anxiety.

    Build and stick to a routine

    Routine is important to all kids, but those with ADHD need to stick to consistent and clear routines to succeed. A lack of consistency and routine creates anxiety and can lead to an increase in negative behavior.

    A routine will help your child know what is next and what to expect, and it is among the most critical strategies parents can implement.

    If your family is busy or has daily schedule fluctuations, tell your child what to expect each day. For example, if Monday is baseball day, remind your child of the routine each Monday. And every Monday should follow the same routine before and after baseball.

    Younger children may benefit from a picture schedule that visually indicates the order of events. Dry-erase boards or picture schedules with Velcro or that are magnetic are ideal because they allow parents to easily adjust the routine as needed.

    Create a supportive and structured environment

    Find the people in your family and your community that are able to step up and support your child. Your child's diagnosis of ADHD doesn't mean they have to struggle in school or at home. But there will be challenges, so the more people you have on your team, the better!

    Give your child praise for the behavior you like, and when possible, ignore mildly disruptive behaviors or things you don't want to be repeated. Avoid using phrases like good behavior and bad behavior as these translate to a child that they are good or bad. Instead, focus on what you liked or disliked about your child's behavior and use specific examples.

    Incorporate creative and engaging activities

    Bored or understimulated children are more likely to engage in negative behaviors. So to decrease unwanted hyperactivity and funnel that pent-up energy positively, keep your child engaged in fun and interesting activities.

    Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can zone in on activities that interest them. In addition, children with ADHD can hyperfocus on activities. Hyperfocus can serve people with ADHD well, primarily when engaged in constructive tasks like interesting homework assignments, LEGO creations, art, etc.

    Consider medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

    Many ADHD children use medication to help them function in everyday life, and that's OK! However, medication is a personal issue, and your child's condition should be discussed thoroughly with their pediatrician before making that decision.

    However, for many, the correct daily medication makes their life easier. It helps them manage behaviors, increases their social skills, and allows them to stay on task better.

    Strategies for Your Child's ADHD Symptoms in School

    Your child's ADHD will also affect them at school. Therefore, ADHD kids need skills to help them thrive during the academic day.

    Your child's teacher will likely have some suggestions, and children with ADHD are entitled to a 504 plan or IEP, depending on their needs.

    Many parents may not realize their children are eligible for behavioral interventions and additional help in the classroom with a medical diagnosis of ADHD. In addition to maintaining open communication with your child's school, some of the skills used at home will help your child cope in class.

    Communicate with teachers and educational staff

    Communication between parents and the child's school is essential to a child's treatment plan. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a medical condition that enables your child to receive support in the classroom as needed.

    504 plans and IEPs are reviewed annually and effective for one year from their start or renewal date so parents and teachers can update accommodations as needed. Their teacher will also have other tips and tricks they use in their classroom to support children and manage various behaviors.

     Set realistic goals and expectations

    Set your child up for success by setting realistic goals and expectations. When a parent expects something above and beyond their child's current abilities, it often results in stress and disappointment.

    Be clear about your expectations and establish appropriate consequences when those expectations are not met. For example, they aren't allowed tablet time if they don't finish their homework. But don't put your child in time-out for things they can't control yet. Instead, work with your child to teach them appropriate behaviors.

     Offer positive reinforcement and rewards

    Use positive reinforcement and rewards as much as possible and avoid negative responses like time-out and scolding when possible. A time-out period may be needed here and there if your child cannot control their emotions. However, it should be used as a support to allow the parent and/or child time to calm down and refocus instead of being seen as a punishment.

    Kids respond best to praise and acknowledgment of their choices much better than punishment for their negative ones. So even simple everyday tasks should be praised. For example, when your child gets dressed independently, remembers to put their dishes in the sink, or puts their laundry away without you asking.

     Develop practical study and organization habits

    In order for students with ADHD to succeed, they need to develop practical study and organizational skills. As a parent, work with your child to determine what benefits them the most. For example, most children with ADHD will benefit from a quiet study space to complete homework.

    Your child may also benefit from audiobooks instead of written texts, note-taking software, or highlighters to help them remember important information. Additionally, your child should have a consistent study schedule.

    Utilize Assistive Technology and Tools

    Assistive technology makes everyday tasks easier for us in many ways. Who among us could live without our GPS these days? But families may not know the technology available to assist with attention deficit disorder.

    Apps like Audible allow a child to listen to a textbook rather than read it. In addition, text-to-voice note-taking technology cuts down on writing notes. Talking calculators, automatic reminders on their phones, meditation, and music apps are some of the assistive tech tools that can help a child with ADHD.


     Families have many options and tools at their disposal when it comes to helping children with ADHD. A child who can manage their ADHD symptoms effectively will have better social skills, perform better academically, and be able to complete everyday tasks more efficiently.

    To assist your child with their pent-up energy, engage them in physical activity and engaging activities that speak to their interests. Provide positive support to your child by acknowledging the behavior you want to see more of and teaching them how to decrease impulsivity using mindfulness and meditation.

    Lastly, work with their teacher to create a supportive and adaptive environment where they can thrive academically, emotionally, and socially.

    Being the parent or caregiver to a child with ADHD differs from parenting other children. It requires a unique skill set, patience, and a lot of love and support. However, teaching your child the skills needed to manage their ADHD symptoms establishes habits that will benefit them now and as adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.