Communication tips for children with ADHD

Communication tips for children with ADHD

Communication is essential but communicating with a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be challenging. Here are strategies for strengthening communication with your child.

1 Recognize when a child is actually hearing you and paying attention:

We use consistent eye contact to relay listening but this may not be possible with your child with ADHD. A child with ADHD may not be able to make/maintain eye contact with you since their mind is operating at a faster pace. Some children fidget with objects when they are listening. This doesn’t imply that they are not paying attention to your conversation but they listen differently. So,

  • Observe your child’s behaviour when they’re listening.
  • Maybe ask your child these questions and together find a listening cue.
    • How can I know you’re listening?
    • How can you show me you’re listening?
    • What can I do to help you listen? etc.

This means providing your child with a tool to use while listening, for example – a ball to squeeze or toss.

2 Give them short and simple directions:

When you’re teaching them something or asking them to carry out a task, give them step-by-step instructions. Give them one or two simple steps and then move on once each step is completed. So this will help your child to complete the task without getting overwhelmed. Eventually, this will provide better results in the end.

Provide simple direct directions to your child in order to be most effective. Do not lay out all the steps at once.


3 Be creative :

You have to be creative when you communicate with your child. For instance, you can make use of visual or audio cues to indicate the things you want your child to do. When it’s bedtime, you can show your child a picture of a bed or provide your child with a stuffed animal that comforts them to sleep with. Or you can play some lullabies or read them a passage from their favourite book.


4 Make use of visual aids:

Most of them struggle with routines because of all the information to remember. For example, during bedtime, they may need to take bath, brush their teeth, put on their pyjamas, brush their hair, etc. Children with ADHD respond very well to visual aids. So,

  • Create a printout with simple images illustrating the necessary bedtime tasks like teeth brushing, a bathtub, PJs, and whatever else is on their routine list.
  • Put them in order and place the list somewhere that is easy for them to see, like the fridge or their bedroom door.
  • When they get off track, ask them what picture is next on their list or have them pick which task from the list they would like to complete now.

This is just one example of a creative method to encourage children with ADHD to remain on task, create focus, and help prevent you from feeling frustrated.

5 Give them choices Children learn to quickly tune their parents out especially when you are talking at them rather than to them. However, when you give your child a choice, it is easier for them to focus and feel heard. Giving choices will also allow them to slow down and weigh the choices so that they make the most appealing decision.




Remember to give simple and easy choices.

6 Talk softly and remain calm:

We always need to look within and see how we impact the frustrating situations. One of the biggest complaints about parents is losing their temper or control. Children sense this and often respond strongly. It is important to stay calm and speak softly. This will help prevent stimulating the child with ADHD so they can remain calm also. If they react strongly,

  • Step away and begin something calmly and quietly that they will want to participate in (e.g. watering the plants, reading books, colouring, cooking, etc). This will show them how to regulate in a healthy manner, and give you time to breathe and calm as well.


  • Parents may calmly let their child know that they are available when their screaming and acting out stops. For example, “when you’re ready to talk, I am all ears, but I can’t hear when you are screaming at me and your tantrums won’t get what you want.”

7 Explain your expectations:

 Children with ADHD need consistent rules that they can understand and follow. Make the rules of behaviour for the family simple and clear. Write down the rules and hang them up in a place where your child can easily read them. Children with ADHD respond particularly well to organized systems of rewards and consequences. It’s important to explain what will happen when the rules are obeyed and when they are broken. Finally, stick to your system: follow through each and every time with a reward or a consequence  


Rewards Consequences
  1. Reward your child with privileges, praise, or activities, rather than with food or toys.
  2. Change rewards frequently. Kids with ADHD get bored if the reward is always the same.
  3. Make a chart with points or stars awarded for good behaviour, so your child has a visual reminder of their successes.
  4. Immediate rewards work better than the promise of a future reward, but small rewards leading to a big one can also work.
  5. Always follow through with a reward.
  1. Try time-outs and the removal of privileges as consequences for misbehaviour.
  2. Remove your child from situations and environments that trigger inappropriate behaviour.
  3. When your child misbehaves, ask what he or she could have done instead. Then have your child demonstrate it.
  4. Always follow through with a consequence.

8 Helping a child with ADHD improve social skills:

It’s hard for children with ADHD to learn social skills and social rules. You can help your child with ADHD become a better listener, learn to read people’s faces and body language and interact more smoothly in groups.

  • Speak gently but honestly with your child about their challenges and how to make changes.
  • Role-play various social scenarios with your child. Trade roles often and try to make it fun.
  • Be careful to select playmates for your child with similar language and physical skills.
  • Invite only one or two friends at a time at first. Watch them closely while they play and have a zero-tolerance policy for hitting, pushing and yelling.
  • Make time and space for your child to play, and reward good play behaviours often.

Parenting an ADHD child can be challenging, but it can be easily managed when we learn to be creative and listen to our child’s needs. Be kind to yourself and your child; you are both learning. If you make a mistake, go back and make amends. Show your child what it means to follow up, and adjust when something has not been done correctly. Reward the positive behaviour- yours and theirs.

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