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How To Communicate Children With ADHD

Since children who have ADHD have a hard time focusing and oftentimes get distracted, it is a good idea to know the best way to effectively communicate with them. Well, that's what's this article is all about.


We're going to be talking about how to communicate with children with ADHD. Hi, my name is Nicholeen and I'm known throughout the world as a person who is a parenting expert. Especially what a lot of people like to consider difficult children. And that's because years ago when I was a young mom, I started doing foster care for troubled teens. 

I had 2 little ones of my own. My husband had a career change. And we felt like the best thing that we could do to keep me with my babies and to help my husband launch into his new career was for me to take on a new career. 

So, I switched from being a career woman to being a full-time mom. And foster mom. I took in youth ages 12 to 18 and they all had a variety of things that they were dealing with. These were high-level treatment care youth. And the majority of them had things in their files like ADHD, OCD, ODD, RAD, kleptomaniac, compulsive lying, anger control issues. You get the idea. 

Anyway, ADHD was the most common thing that was written on the files of the youth that came into my home. And so, it was my job to help them learn how to conquer themselves, fix the relationships, learn how to problem-solve better, and do it all when they had ADHD.

Oftentimes, other things that they were dealing with as well. So, what I'd like to share with you today are 4 different ways that you can set up your environment so that you can communicate better with your ADHD child or maybe even your ADHD spouse or maybe even you just want to make plans for you because you have ADHD. 

These are principles of self-government which I'm the most known for that will help you no matter how or who you want to communicate with. Number 1, you have to be planned. This means that you've got to be planned for how you are going to communicate.

They need to have a plan too. Children or people with ADHD often have higher levels of anxiety. So, if they have a plan, there's something to hold on to. This is important. That means you can't just be getting creative on the fly. Even though you may like that. And a lot of people respond fairly decently to creative problem solving or creative directing. 

ADHD people struggle with that type of creativity because they don't know what's coming next. So, to help their anxiety levels, what we need to do is make a plan. How are we going to solve problems? How are we going to stay calm? These things can all be planned out with skills. We taught our children 4 basic skills that they needed to always be in control of themselves. To feel like they were in charge of what was happening to them. 

Those 4 basic skills, I don't have time to go into a ton of them today. But they are following instructions, accepting no-answers and criticism. Accepting consequences and disagreeing appropriately. Each one of those 4 basic skills has a skill-set to hold on to. 

This means that the child in their mind can just go step by step. And over time, it can become a new habit, a new pathway for them. In fact, these 4 basic skills are not just for children. They are for everyone. So, one key thing with making a plan we rule out is lectures. People who have ADHD are not going to focus on a lecture for very long. 

In fact, once they stop being able to focus on your line of logic and your lecture and the direction you're leading them, it will actually start to cause them stress and anxiety. So, lecturing is never going to be effective for them. 

Number 2, be predictable. If there is one thing a person with ADHD loves, it's knowing what's going to be said, what consequences are going to happen. Knowing that there is not an unknown. Because that unknown does what? It creates anxiety. So, if you are predictable, that means you have exact words that you will say whenever you're solving problems with them. I know that it sounds a little bit uncomfortable to some people to plan out every single word. 

In fact, I'm the type of person that likes to live in the moment, let her hair down, have fun, be creative. I mean, I've written books, I've written courses. I love to cook. Those are all creative things. But when it comes to my relationships, especially with people who have struggled with anxiety and focusing, then I am going to make sure that I am predictable. This helps them and it helps me so that I don't end up doing something I wish I didn't. 

So, when I correct my children, I have a 7-step process that I go through. And I say the same things every time. It starts with the description. "Just now, I give you an instruction. And then I describe what happened." And then I tell them what they should've done, what they've earned. We have certain practices. 

There's a method for correcting it. And they know those words exactly. In fact, the children can do the correction. If they need to, we role-play all the time. And they can perform the correction on me. Not that that's their role. They wouldn't. But when we practice, they know it. They know the other side of it. 

So, even if it looks like they're struggling, they know the words I'm saying when it's the moment I'm trying to help them sort through a problem, get calm, be okay when things aren't okay and correct some issue that needs correction. So, predictability is huge. It's going to be something that will give them a sense of security and you are communicating with them. Another thing about predictability is you should use the same words, the same consequences every time. 

Be consistent, okay? If you allow some things to go and not be corrected and correct other things that are confusing for a person with ADHD, let's be real, that's confusing for anybody. So, be consistent. Make sure that you are always correcting the same problems just like you said you would. 

People who have ADHD thrive in environments with boundaries. So, consistency shows them their boundaries and they have happiness, peace, they are a lot more successful. Number 3, keep things simple. There's one thing that I learned with one of my foster children early on. I like to be efficient. So, I tell people, "Okay, you can do this chore and do that. 

Get that to load in the car." And I like to make a list of things. And then in my head, I've got my list and I go off to do it. Somebody with ADHD is just being set up for failure if you do that. So, what you need to do is keep it simple. Tell them step by step what needs to happen. So, first, you would tell them,"I'm going to give you an instruction." Prepare them to even succeed. 

I call that pre-teaching. And then you keep the instruction broken down into smaller instructions. So, if the normal instruction you wanted to give was to load everything that we need in the car for our journey wherever we're going, that's a big one. What does that mean? What is everything? Another example of a really broad instruction would be, "I need you to clean the toy room." 

They walk in there and there's stuff everywhere. It's hard to know exactly what we should be picking up and not. So, instead, what you would do is you would say, "Okay, I'm going to give you an instruction. Do you remember how to follow instructions?" Now, there are 5 steps to following instructions. You look at the person. 

Keep a calm face, voice, and body. Say okay or ask to disagree appropriately. Do the task immediately and then check back. Now I would've taught that to them before this interaction. So, that's not new. That's all predictable information. 

I'm just giving it to them so they know exactly what to do when I give them the instruction. So then I'll say, "We are going to be working on cleaning the toy room. So, what I need you to do is go into the toy room and find all of the cars and put them in the bucket. And then come and report back to me, okay?" So, then they'll say, "Okay." And they're thinking, "Cars, cars, cars. 

I got to find the cars. Pick them up. Put them in the bucket." Then they'll come back and report back to me. I will praise them for that because they should see cause and effect doing something good. There's a good result which is praise. 

Then I will say, "Okay, now I have another instruction for you. Now, I need you to go into the toy room and find all of the blocks and put them in that bucket, okay?" So, then they'll say, "Okay." And they go in and they find the blocks. So, this is how we break things down so that they don't have to be held accountable for this huge chore that they weren't able to process in the first place. Keep it simple. Take them to step by step through it. 

Over time, they'll learn how to add more and more things to their plate. They've got to grow their capacity. And for them, it's a little bit more difficult. Number 4, be calm. That means not emotional. The front part of the brain is the part that does the thinking for the person. 

When a person has ADHD and they start feeling anxious or worried or not being able to focus, they are not in that front part of the brain. They are somewhere else. If you throw emotion at them, that throws them back even further into their emotional parts of the brain so that they can't think as clearly. So, when you're correcting them or something's going wrong, you've got to stay calm. 

That means you've got to have your own self-government. You've got to learn how to control the beast within. If you have calm, direct communication, they'll feel safe and it will help them think more than they currently are. This calm, predictable type of communication that works so well for children with ADHD is all about a feeling of love and safety.

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