How to Help Your Child Understand Their ADHD Diagnosis

Mother and daughter with doctor in doctor's office

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Explaining ADHD to your child after she has been diagnosed can help remove the mystery surrounding the struggles she knows she's been having. It can also help a child feel a greater sense of control.

Though parents sometimes worry about their child being labeled, it is much worse for a child to feel that they are “stupid” or “lazy”—feelings often felt by kids with ADHD who don't quite understand why they are different from their peers. Understanding what ADHD is helps to remove these types of negative labels. It demystifies what has been going on and provides a clearer understanding to a child. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or laziness; it is a medical condition that requires interventions and treatment just like nearsightedness or hearing loss does.

How do you go about explaining ADHD to a child? Where do you begin?

Team Up With Your Doctor

Learning about ADHD may be a process for parents, as well as children. Often when a child is first diagnosed, it is helpful to sit down together with the doctor to discuss the diagnosis. You and your child can ask questions and the doctor can provide accurate information.

Be Positive in Your Approach

Your approach is very important. Be positive, matter-of-fact, and comfortable in your conversation. Now that you are aware of what has been causing the inattention, trouble focusing on one thing at a time, difficulty sitting still, and the like, you can begin to address the issues more effectively. Knowledge is a good thing. If you don’t know the answers to questions your child is asking, let him or her know you are learning together and can find answers together. Tailor your responses to the age of your child. A very young child may not need or want quite as much detail as a teenager.

Identify Strengths and Develop Strategies to Address Weakness

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. No one is good at everything. Focus on helping your child identify his or her areas of strength and interest, and develop strategies for dealing with and minimizing the areas that cause greater difficulty.

Books, Books, Books

There are many books available that help children to understand more about ADHD. Read the books together, or if your child is older and prefers to read them alone, be supportive by giving her the space to do this.

Positive Role Models

ADHD is thought to have a strong genetic influence, so chances are that if your child has ADHD, someone else in your family may as well. Perhaps even you or your child’s other parent does. Talk openly about this with a positive attitude and outlook. Let your child know she is not alone. Talk about other successful people who also have ADHD—business entrepreneurs, doctors, writers, artists, actors, athletes. With your help, your child will begin to understand that ADHD is just a small part of the wonderful person that she is.

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