Parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) sometimes parent their children in negative ways as a result of the stress resulting from the ADHD behaviors. Children who have ADHD are impulsive and inattentive and can create a tense and frustrating situation for the parents who try to assist them with completing tasks such as homework assignments and chores. As parents work harder to help their children, they can find themselves losing patience and overreacting. They often report reacting impulsively and judgmentally, usually based on the history of the child’s behavior, not on the situation at hand. Additionally, the parents of ADHD children often struggle with ADHD symptoms themselves. All of these factors combined can lead to a nonproductive and often combative scenario for both parent and child.
Mindfulness is a therapeutic approach that has been proven to reduce stress in adults with mental health problems. The negative affect of depression and anxiety associated with panic and phobia have been shown to be significantly diminished when individuals use mindfulness to cope with their symptoms. Mindfulness-based therapies focus on acceptance without judgment and encourage calming, positive techniques that minimize negative outcomes. However, to date, little research has looked at how mindfulness can help parents and children with ADHD. Saskia Oord of the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Leuven in Belgium recently conducted a study to determine what benefits this group of individuals could derive from mindfulness.
Oord enlisted 22 parents of children with ADHD for an 8-week session of mindfulness training. The children, who ranged in age from 8 to 12 years old, were enrolled in a separate mindfulness program at the same time. Oord evaluated the behaviors, stress levels, mindfulness, and reactivity of the parents and the ADHD symptoms of the children before and after the training and again 2 months later. Compared to a waitlist group of participants, the children enrolled in the mindfulness program exhibited significant declines in nearly all of their symptoms. The parents also experienced declines, although they were not as dramatic. Oord also discovered that the gains were maintained for both parents and children 2 months posttreatment. One of the biggest barriers to effective child symptom management and parent training is the ADHD of the parent, and this study provides evidence of one way to overcome that challenge. Oord added, “Providing mindfulness treatment for parents and children simultaneously may target those parents high on ADHD, who are shown to be at risk of nonresponse to behavioral parent training.”
Oord, S., Bogels, S., Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21.1, 139-147.
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