Improving Communication Skills With a Child Or Teen With ADHD

Learning how to communicate with your child or teen is tough for any parent. But for the parent of an ADHD child, it can be a bit more complicated. Research shows that parents of children with ADHD are less warm and engaging than parents of children without ADHD and communicate less effectively than other parents.1 Parents of ADHD children often respond to problematic behavior through high levels of verbal reprimands and corrective actions, leading the children to respond negatively, perpetuating a cycle of ineffective communication.2 Before we dive into how to best communicate with your ADHD child or teen, let’s explore how ADHD affects communication in the first place.

Does ADHD Affect Communication?

Research from the University of Waterloo in Canada suggests that people with ADHD may face hurdles when communicating and interacting with other people.3 According to researchers, people with ADHD have difficulty considering the perspective of their conversation partner due to an inability to retain information for a temporary period and difficulties with suppressing a response. This results in egocentric behavior such as blurting, interrupting, and trouble listening or following directions. Many ADHD children are also known to talk excessively, talk too loudly, and make tangential comments during conversation because they find it challenging to organize their thoughts on the spot. These reasons may be why 50 to 60 percent of children with ADHD have difficulty with peer relationships.4

Different Communication Styles & ADHD

There are four main styles of communication: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.5 Find out which communication sounds like the one you use and how it might clash with your ADHD child.

  • Passive: Passive communicators do not express their own feelings or needs and often defer to others for decisions. Sometimes parents will take this approach so that they do not come off as authoritarians, but their permissiveness may lead to misunderstandings and inconsistencies when it comes to routines. By not providing clear expectations for their kids, their children do not feel properly guided. This kind of communication puts both parents and their kids at risk for resentments toward each other.
  • Aggressive: Aggressive communicators express their feelings, needs, and ideas at the expense of others, often ignoring their child’s rights in order to support their own. They can be defensive or hostile and are at risk of alienating their child. This authoritarian parenting style offers little warmth and inflexible communication. It can contribute to feelings of anxiety in their children who may feel like failures in meeting such high expectations.
  • Passive-aggressive: Passive-aggressive communicators may seem passive at the surface but are prone to subtly acting out in anger. They exert control over others with sarcasm and indirect communication, which can lead children to hold feelings in and withdraw. Many ADHD children may communicate passive-aggressively as well because they haven’t learned how to express themselves effectively.  
  • Assertive communication: Assertive communicators know how to communicate their thoughts and feelings directly and honestly. They show respect for the feelings and ideas of others, outlining clear and consistent rules and expectations to their child while still allowing their child to voice their own needs. 

Tips for Improving Communication

Along with being assertive, clear, and consistent when setting rules and expectations, here are some other tips to improve communication with a child or teen with ADHD: 

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  • Practice listening skills with your child: If you’re accustomed to advocating for your child and solving problems on their behalf, it can be difficult to just sit back and listen. But allowing your child to be heard can do wonders in improving their communication skills and their confidence and self-esteem. Listening intently to your child also encourages them to listen back.
  • Take notes: ADHD children often have trouble processing information. By encouraging them to take notes during conversation, they can better keep track of their own thoughts and any requests made on them. 
  • Give them space: If your child has trouble staying on task as many ADHD kids do, it can be tempting to check in on them frequently, making them feel unsure of their own abilities. You may find more success in having a check-in system where you agree on a set time to check in on their progress instead of interfering with their independence. 
  • Make requests in lieu of ultimatums: Nobody likes ultimatums. By figuring out a way to make requests and letting your child have some leeway in negotiating terms, you show your child that their input matters. This fosters mutual respect.
  • Praise your child: For the child or teen who is regularly reprimanded, a comment of praise will be a welcome change. Being praised may also help your child feel better about themselves. For an even bigger boost, encourage your child to practice positive self-talk

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Responding 

If you’ve struggled with having effective communication with your child, it can be tempting to jump into reaction mode and continue perpetuating a cycle of misunderstandings and arguments. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you respond so you can interact with them instead of react to them: 

  • Have I made my rules and expectations clear? And am I being consistent in adhering to them?
  • Do they need my help or do they just need to vent to someone?
  • Do I solve this problem for them or encourage their own problem-solving skills?

Communicating with your ADHD child or teen can be tough, but it’s important to remember that your child may be just as frustrated as you are as they grapple with the unique symptoms of ADHD that affect their ability to effectively express themselves. One way you can support your child or teen to become prepared in dealing with these symptoms is with Brillia, a non-prescription homeopathic medication designed to reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and help improve attention and focus. Approved for children, teens, and adults, Brillia contains no harsh chemicals and is available with or without an official diagnosis. Brillia can be used by anyone with symptoms of ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD, anxiety, or autism and works best in tandem with healthy lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness. Find out more about how Brillia works.

References: 1https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10826-006-9093-2, 2https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18559885/, 3https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/30/adhd-associated-with-communication-problems, 4https://chadd.org/for-adults/relationships-social-skills/, 5https://umatter.princeton.edu/respect/tools/communication-styles
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