Parenting a Child with ADHD - Healthy Lifestyle

Please discuss how you changed your child's diet or lifestyle to manage symptoms of ADHD.

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Promote a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle will help not only your child but the entire family preserve both physical and emotional health. Stick to a nutrition plan and avoid giving your child junk foods and "empty" calories on more than an occasional basis. While sugary foods are not a cause of ADHD, some parents find that lots of sugary foods may worsen their child's symptoms. Sometimes older children with ADHD are so distracted and disorganized that they may skip meals or eat irregularly. Decreased appetite can be a side effect of some medications that treat ADHD. Try to ensure that your child is eating regularly, and small meals every few hours may be most effective for some children with ADHD. While allowing your child to enjoy childhood by allowing for an occasional treat, it is important to teach your child to make good food choices by modeling these choices yourself.

Exercise can help excitable children "burn off" excess energy, and regular exercise promotes physical well-being and healthy sleep habits. Encouraging your child to participate in organized sports after school can provide both regular exercise and the benefits of a regular and predictable schedule. As mentioned above, many children with ADHD do well in martial arts or yoga classes that emphasize mental as well as physical control over their bodies. In general, it's important to pick a sport that suits your child and his or her abilities, but sports that involve constant activity or motion may be better choices for some kids than sports that have significant "down-time" like baseball or softball.

Sleep is another key factor in ensuring a healthy lifestyle for your child and family on a daily basis. If your child is not well-rested, he/she will have even more difficulty staying focused and on-task. Falling asleep can be difficult for children with ADHD who may be overstimulated and have an increased activity level. As part of your regular and predictable schedule, it's important to have a set bedtime and bedtime routine. You can use a checklist or timer if you like to help your child make the transition to bedtime. Eliminating caffeine in your child's diet as well as providing a calming nighttime ritual (such as cuddling or sharing a book or story) can help your child wind down at the end of an active day. For older children and teens, turning off the computer and storing cell phones and other electronic devices outside the child's room for the night serve to prevent these distractions from interfering with sleep.

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