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Why won’t my child brush his teeth?

Any parent reading this will know that bringing up a child with ADHD comes with many challenges. One daily struggle many parents ask me about is getting their child to brush their teeth regularly and consistently. Children with ADHD struggle with mundane tasks, especially first thing in the morning and last thing at night. However, with patience, and good communication, you can help your child get into a healthy routine. The key thing here is to provide a measure of flexibility, rather than micromanaging. Here are some ideas to make the process much easier for both you and your child.

Pick a time of your child’s choosing:

Children with ADHD hate being told what to do! This is why giving your child ownership of the process can be so effective. By offering your child several options to choose from, you may well find that they prefer to brush their teeth straight after dinner, as opposed to last thing at night, which requires more effort. This simple act of decision-making can make brushing teeth far more appealing to your child and reduce the chances of opposition or noncompliance.

Make It Sensual:

Turn toothbrushing into a fun and interactive activity. Incorporate sensual elements to stimulate your child's attention and make the experience an enjoyable one. Listening to music is a good example of this or using a timer with a catchy tune to signal the end of the brushing session. Additionally, let your child choose their toothbrush and toothpaste with appealing flavours to make it a more personalised experience.

Provide Visual and Verbal Reminders:

It’s often the case with ADHDers that they fully intend to brush their teeth, but don’t get round to it out of forgetfulness. That is why having reminders can be so helpful, especially in the mornings. Children with ADHD often benefit from visual and verbal cues to stay on track. Create visual reminders, such as a toothbrushing chart or a checklist, in a visible area to serve as a visual prompt. I always suggest placing reminders on the inside of the bedroom door, so it’s visible as soon as your child gets up to leave.

Use Incentive schemes:

Creating an incentive scheme tailored specifically for your child is a great way to turn teeth brushing into a regular habit. Start by identifying rewards that your child finds appealing and meaningful. You can then establish a point or token system where your child earns points or tokens for each successful toothbrushing session. I personally suggest setting ‘weekly’ goals to help your child build up a sense of momentum. Remember, always praise and acknowledge your child’s efforts consistently, emphasising the importance of oral hygiene and its long-term benefits.

Encouraging your ADHD child to develop good oral hygiene habits is a struggle, but not impossible. By implementing the right strategy, you can transform toothbrushing from a boring chore into a fun and rewarding experience for your child. Good luck! 😊


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