Parenting and ADHD: Could ADHD Be Prevented?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition. The child’s – and potentially the adult’s – mind does not necessarily develop some of the skills needed to stay focused on task and/or inhibit certain behaviors. There is a common myth in today’s world that ADHD is something that we’re causing, with the idea that parenting mistakes, more distractions, sugar consumption, and busier schedules could all be contributing to the development of ADHD.

While it is true that we do not know with certainty why some children develop ADHD and others do not, and there are a few factors – including one in particular – that are in our control to prevent some of the more significant symptoms or worsening of ADHD, most of the time it is not something that we could have prevented.

ADHD Prevention

There is no surefire, known way to prevent ADHD, nor is there a way to stop it or cure it. We do not know if a child is born with ADHD or if it develops as their mind develops, but we do know that there is very limited association with anything in our control (for example, poor diet). ADHD prevention does not truly exist, at least in meaningful form.

Indeed, we should even consider, as a society, moving away from the idea that ADHD, and similar conditions, should be considered something we want to prevent. Children with ADHD are still amazing children that can and often do go on to do amazing things, and ADHD is just a small part of who they are. In some cases, their ADHD may even be an asset.

There is one exception to this: screen time.

Studies have shown that older children that have excessive screen time are far more likely to develop the symptoms of ADHD, and struggle with attention issues. We still do not know exactly how screen time is related, however:

  • Screen time may cause someone to develop attention issues that qualify for an ADHD diagnosis, but may not be neurodevelopmental in the same way other children with ADHD experience.
  • Screen time may be a symptom of parenting a child with ADHD. For example, a child that struggles to focus due to ADHD may be given a screen in order for the parent to focus on their own tasks. In these cases, the ADHD came first.
  • Screen time may cause issues that require the brain or prevent some type of developmental milestone. For example, videos on YouTube change rapidly, rewiring the brain to expect new stimulation constantly.

Studies have consistently showed that children with extensive, regular screen time are up to 7x more likely to have ADHD than children with less screen time, but it is not clear if this is the result of already having ADHD, or attention issues being diagnosed as ADHD, or a developmental issue that occurs at a young age.

Preventing Worsening Symptoms

Besides limiting screen time, ADHD does not appear to be something that can be prevented. However, there are ways that you can start addressing and reducing the severity of the symptoms. These include:

  • Early Intervention – The earlier a child receives the support they need to start addressing issues surrounding ADHD, especially those related to executive function disorder, the better the outcomes are likely to be. This helps them develop associations and skills that will support their cognitive growth as they develop.
  • Sleep – Sleep is critical for children with ADHD. Not only does poor sleep tend to worsen ADHD symptoms, but children with ADHD may need more sleep than their neurotypical counterparts, since living with ADHD can be mentally draining. So make sure that your child is getting adequate sleep.
  • Support Your Child’s Mental Health – Stress and anxiety can also make ADHD symptoms worse. They make it harder for anyone to focus, with or without ADHD, so those with ADHD may be more likely to show behavioral and academic challenges when they are also struggling to cope with stress and anxiety.

It is true that we need to better limit screen time in our children. But, in most cases (if not all), ADHD is something that we cannot necessarily prevent. What we can do, however, is make sure that we’re giving our child everything they need to thrive and addressing our own challenges to help make sure we can give our children the attention and care that they need.

Learn more about parent coaching and other ADHD related services by exploring our website here at ADHD Training Center, today.  

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