I was talking to a mom the other day whose 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 2nd grade. We were discussing some related learning challenges, and some new issues showing up now that she is in middle school.
Now, this mom has been managing her daughter’s ADHD for many years, so she’s not new at this game. And yet, it became clear in our conversation that there were many aspects of her daughter’s ADHD that she really did not yet understand. She was still asking, “why can’t she just…” and getting frustrated by her daughter’s “unwillingness” to … (fill in the blank). It was interfering with her ability to help her child succeed in school.
You’re the Parent of a Complex Kid
Being a parent is difficult enough. After all, no kids come with an instruction guide! But being the parent of a kid with ADHD or related challenges – well, it adds another layer of complexity – or two or twenty! It’s certainly not like you thought it would be when you were expecting!
It’s almost as if there is an un-education and a re-education that needs to happen after diagnosis – for both us, and our kids. We have to let go of what we were expecting and learn how to move forward from where you and your child are now.
How do you do that?! Well, one of the places you can start is with educating yourself about what’s going on with your kids. It’s not enough to say, “Yes, they have ADHD.” You have to take the next step: How does this affect their lives? Where is it showing up? At school? At home? With friends? All of the above?
If you educate yourself – if you really understand the diagnosis — you can help your kids come to terms with and manage their ADHD. You can help them build the systems and structures they need to be successful in areas that ADHD impacts the most. And you can maintain an excellent relationship with them in the process.
Including ADHD Kids in the Conversation
The earlier you can get your kids to understand that this is their reality and that they have to learn to manage themselves, the better. If your child has working memory deficits, for instance, they need to know that there’s a reason they have trouble remembering – AND that they still have to figure out how to remember things in their life! That way, your message as a parent gets to be one of compassion and understanding: “This is hard for you, you’ll have to find a way to do that…and I will help.” (And we will help you!)
It is critical that you involve the kids in the education process. They need to be aware of the challenges that come with ADHD, as well as the support that is available. After high school, they’ll find they have to fend for themselves. Want them to be ready then? They need to know what’s going on now.
Are you hesitant to discuss an ADHD diagnosis with your kid? Maybe you don’t want to label them? Maybe you fear they’ll use it as an “excuse” for not trying, or for bad behaviour?
Here’s the thing: kids already know something’s going on. They know they are different –but they don’t know why. When you educate your kids – and yourselves – you answer the why. You give them a reason. THEN, you can work together to tackle how they can address the challenges.
We Have to Talk, Now
How do you talk to your kid about ADHD? Well, honestly, it’s like the sex talk. There is no single right way to talk about it, and the best time is always now. And then later. And then again.
The conversation is ongoing. It’s a lifetime of “What’s going on and how can you overcome it?” It is never a conversation about “You have ADHD, so you can’t do this.” Instead, “You have ADHD and you can do this. It may look different; it may happen at a different time; it may be hard. But you can do this. Here’s how I can help.”
Driving is just one example. A neurotypical 16 year-old may be ready to take the wheel (whether his parents are or not!). A 16 year-old with ADHD may not be ready because he has difficulty focusing. Does that mean he will have to take the bus for the next 90 years? No. It means he’ll drive when he is ready. When your kid understands this, it can relieve stress, anxiety, and worry – for both of you.
Your life with ADHD may not ever be easy. Seriously, parenting is not easy under the best of circumstances! But if you get the training you need to understand the way that ADHD shows up in your family, you can educate your child to play to her strengths. And when you see your child soar, knowing she’s overcome great obstacles – it just doesn’t get better than that!
ADHD Parent Video
At LAST — Operating Instructions for raising ADHD kids! This video gives you the tools you need to tackle ANY challenging situation, one step at a time.