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Preventing Behavior Problems Outside of the Home for Kids with ADHD

Many parents of children with ADHD dread having to take their son or daughter shopping with them, or to other places outside of the home where behavior issues often emerge. The behavioral controls expected in some of these environments can be more than a child with ADHD is able to handle. Children who are overactive and impulsive will engage in behavior that is often quite embarrassing to the parent, as well. The following are some recommendations for preventing -- or at least reducing -- potential behavior problems.

Teach, model, and practice appropriate behaviors and manners that you expect your child to display outside of the home (e.g.,follow directions, clean up after self, walk/don't run in the house/building, say "please" and "thank you").

Anticipate and prepare for potential problems.

Give your child time to get ready and talk about what to expect. Give advance notice. Remember how any change of routine can be stressful and unnerving. Children with ADHD need preparation; avoid catching them off guard.

Before going into public places (stores, doctor's offices, restaurants, church, movie theaters) or visiting other people's homes, talk to your child about behavioral expectations. State the rules simply. Review. Have your child repeat them back to you.

Establish reward(s) that your child will be able to receive if he behaves appropriately and follows the rules.

Don't put your child in situations that are too taxing on her self-control and attention span.

Avoid shopping without building in the opportunity for your child to get something small.

Let your child know the consequences if he behaves inappropriately. Mean what you say!

Give written directions if appropriate.

Don't take your child to places that you know will be too stimulating or difficult to manage the behavior and supervise.

Remove your child from the situation when she is behaving inappropriately or showing signs of losing control.

Supervise. Supervise. Supervise.

Talk with your child about the natural consequences of inappropriate behavior (e.g., friends or their parents won't want to invite him to their house again, other children will get angry and not want to play).

Be prepared with a bag of tricks." Knowing the nature of ADHD -- how children bore easily and need to be kept busy -- don't leave the house without toys, books, audiotapes, games, etc., that can occupy your child and keep her entertained. Keep the "bag of tricks" replenished and changing to maintain novelty and interest.

Give your child feedback when you are with him outside of the home. "I'm proud of how you are . . . It looks like you'll probably earn the . . . we talked about."

Avoid fatigue. Don't take your child out when he or she is tired and needs a nap.

Excerpted from The ADD/ADHD Checklist by Sandra Rief, M.A.

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