7 Tips for Talking to Your Kid with ADHD

Expert advice on how to get and keep your child's attention.

Medically reviewed in January 2023

Everyone has their own way of communicating. Even when you know someone really well, they can say something that flies right over your head. So we learn and adjust along the way, usually figuring out the best way to talk with our nearest and dearest.

But if your child or teen has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can be even more difficult to get—and keep—their attention when you have something important to say. Adapting your communication style to better suit your kid's needs is one of the best ways to make a positive connection. Try these expert tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Amen Clinics.

7 ADHD Communication Tips

  1. Don't shout. On those long days that test your patience, this top tip may be easier said than done. It may help to remember that some people with ADD/ADHD enjoy being part of conflict because it feels exciting. So when your kid is pressing your buttons (and all kids do), try not to give in.
  2. Break it down. When you need to give instructions that may be a bit complicated, dole out the details one at a time and make a checklist that covers everything.
  3. Do not disturb. To keep interruptions to a minimum, try not to ramble. Keep your sentences short and to the point. And when your kid is ready to respond, don't butt in. Otherwise, they may not be able to stay focused.
  4. Stay in touch. If it seems like their mind is wandering, gently touch their arm or hand to bring their attention back to you.
  5. Get cooking. Some parents find that conversation comes more naturally when they're doing something active with their child, like making dinner or doing yard work.
  6. Use "when/then" statements. For example, you could say, "When you finish your homework, then you can go play basketball." This one works well for all kids because it clearly sets expectations and rewards.
  7. Put it in writing. If it's something really important, write it down in a way that's easy for them to understand. Better yet, have them write it in their own words, so you know for sure if you're on the same page.

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