Combating ADHD by Treating Child and Parent with Mindfulness Training

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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  • CRG

    April 25th, 2012 at 12:25 AM

    Must be stressful caring for a child with any disorder in general.This could be due to special needs, societal view or a lot of other things.But stress and tension is present for a parent no doubt.And where there is a problem, a solution that helps is always welcome.Mindfulness is a proven technique and it only makes sense to see its benefits and advance it in this field.

  • macy h

    April 25th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    This is such a wonderful tool that is going to help so many parents and children who have ADHD. I know that on the days when I am the most stressed from whatever is going on in life, then those are the days when I feel like the most horrible mom ever and that I am doing nothing productive for my children. I can’t imagine feeling this kind of stress on a daily basis from dealing with ADHD in my child. You know that the children are already frustrated with themselves- they need a supportive parent and not one who feeds into that frustration and adds to how bad they feel about themselves. Get the parents involved and I promise that the treatment outcomes will be far more effective for the children.

  • Nancy White

    April 25th, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Ignoring the needs of the parents in these cases is just as bad and detrimental to the health of the child as it would be to ignore the needs of the child altogether.

    How is a child supposed to learn and thrive when their parents are always frustrated and do not know the best ways to handle their unique situation?

    A child can easily sense when there is anger and stress and animosity, and without giving parents the skills that they need to cope to fall back on, this is exactly what the child will be experiencing in that home.

    Children with ADHD aren’t all that different, they just may be a little different from the kids that you thought that you would have. But that makes them no less loveable, maybe just a little more of a challenge, but think about how good the parents and the children will feel when they know that this is something that they can all conquer and manage together.

  • trey

    April 25th, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    Children are so flexible and adults are so set in their ways, that is probably a big reason why the gains for the adults were not as signoficant as those witnessed in the kids.

  • morgan KEY

    April 26th, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    If the children and the parents are both taught to be more aware of how they deal with this, then maybe it will have a better cance of encouraging them to make better decisions when faced with the same thing again.

  • Lidia

    April 26th, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    ADHD tends to run in families and often parents of ADHD children also have ADHD themselves (diagnosed or not). Mindfulness has a potential to not only decrease stress but provide a greater understanding of ADHD patterns, improved attention and better self-regulation–all so valuable for a parent with ADHD who also models for his/her child.

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