The findings support international clinical guidelines suggesting evidence-based parenting programs be used before medication is prescribed for pre-schoolers with signs of ADHD.
The University of Auckland study, published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, involved 53 New Zealand families who each had a child aged three or four with extreme levels of hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
The families enrolled in the eight-module online version of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program to learn practical strategies to manage behavioral difficulties. They also received two support phone calls from Triple P providers to help them adapt the strategies to their own family.
Researchers Dr Nike Franke and Dr Louise Keown said parents often find the extreme behaviors of children with ADHD challenging and stressful.
“(The children) can also have difficulties in social situations with their peers, and parents can feel embarrassed, ashamed and blame themselves,” said Dr Keown. .
But after doing Triple P Online, parents reported significantly lower levels of stress and depression and greater parenting satisfaction, she said. Many parents reported feeling more confident in their parenting skills and that their child’s behaviour was much easier to manage.
“The reality is there are barriers to providing face-to-face parenting program to help parents manage pre-school ADHD symptoms, particularly in smaller communities…and not all parents want to ask for help,” said Dr Keown.
“An effective online program means parents can get help in their own homes easily and anonymously which is what many parents want.
“ADHD behaviors are associated with long-term problems such as difficult relationships with parents, teachers and peers, and poor academic performance, so it is best to intervene as early as possible.”
Triple P Online is one of the birth-12 programs in the Triple P suite of interventions.