ADHD Coping Strategies

ADHD Coping Strategies

As children grow up they have a lot to contend with, from peer pressure to hormones, from studying to work. Add in having ADHD then it becomes super tough. So how can we help our kids develop useful coping strategies for ADHD?

ADHD is not just about boys running around, generally misbehaving. We know now that ADHD affects both boys and girls almost equally, and there are three different types of presentation

  • Hyperactive/Impulsiveness – click for symptoms
  • Inattentive – click for symptoms
  • Combined – click for symptoms

Working Memory

Moreover, one of the biggest issues with having ADHD is the difficulty with working memory. Working memory is the memory that allows us to hold a small amount of information short-term, keeping it ready for immediate mental use. It is really important for learning, problem-solving, and other mental processes.

Tip #1 Routine

Routine is something that benefits every child if we are honest, but it is particularly useful for those with ADHD. Consistency and predictability allow an individual with ADHD to manage not only their emotions but also their behaviour, by creating a safe feeling.

Routine also means that individuals can rely less on their working memory as tasks become habits. It can take the hard work out of simple everyday tasks most of us take for granted.

Time Blindness

Another symptom that can cause everyday issues for our kids is time blindness. Time blindness is when an individual does not recognise that time is passing, how quickly it’s passing, or how soon an event or deadline is approaching.

Tip #2 Alarms

Alarm clocks / Mobile phone alarms should become their new best friend. Setting alarms can help to remind younger people of important times, dates, tasks, appointments, etc.

Also, timers work well if they need to spend a specific amount of time on something. This really helps to ensure that an individual can allocate specific amounts of time to tasks, jobs, etc. This is also good to ensure they spend time on the less interesting tasks – individuals with ADHD find it hard to motivate themselves to do less interesting tasks.


We know that sleep is important for all of us, but for those with ADHD, it can be really tough. Individuals with ADHD have a different sleep cycle and often have a surge in energy levels just when we need them to be calming down and getting ready for sleep.

Tip #3 Calming Techniques

Whilst we can’t ‘make’ anyone sleep, we can encourage better habits to encourage as much as possible. Limit screen time before bed, audiobooks or music can be used if kids need something to listen to. Apps such as Calm or Headspace (for kids) are great to help young people relax before bedtime. Again a strict bedtime routine is great, allowing the body to get used to the idea of sleep.


Children with ADHD respond really well to praise and reward, more so than others. Dopamine is the ‘feel good’ transmitter in the brain. Individuals with ADHD tend to not be able to maintain dopamine levels for as long as other brain types. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.

The subconscious search for dopamine means that individuals are always looking for that pleasure. If you can add a sense of urgency or reward to a task, then the child is much more likely to complete it promptly.

Tip #4 Praise

Praise is a separate item on the list of coping skills because it is extremely effective. Much more effective than any punishment or negative reinforcement given. Child behaviour expert Alan Kazdin reports that when the desired behaviour is praised in a specific way, it is guaranteed to promote more of that behaviour:

  • Mention the achievement
  • Be enthusiastic, even gushy!
  • Reward and affirm the praise by touching your child in an affectionate manner.

Simplify Tasks

Because those with ADHD struggle to pay attention for prolonged periods, then it can really help to break down any task into smaller, easier to manage tasks. At each stage, when completed then the child should be praised. It may seem a little unnatural and a little too much initially, but eventually, with enough practice, the child will get used to the whole routine and develop a useful coping skill.

Tip #5 Step by Step

As an example when asking a child to get ready for school in the morning, break this down into individual steps. Ask each step one at a time and do not move on to the next until the previous is completed and praised:

  • Wake up and get out of bed
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush teeth etc.

Ask for support

It is also worth talking to your child’s School, College, and University for extra support. Whilst they may have put reasonable adjustments in place as standard when your child started, these do need to be looked at over time to ensure they are still working. Moreover, there may also be smaller steps that may help your child specifically. My son for example is able to leave their PE Kit with the PE department during the week, so it is one less thing to remember. All these little things can just make their day-to-day that little bit easier. And as their ability to cope increases, and the coping strategies begin to become second nature then they will be able to cope with more.

It isn’t easy and it takes time and patience. Once you begin to recognise their symptoms/struggles and that your child is trying their best, your viewpoint will shift. You will find it much easier to be understanding of their behaviours and want to support them however you can.

Fay x

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