by Amy Mullen
If you have a child with ADHD like I do, you know you have a set of struggles to face other parents may not understand. Before you fall into despair, know that ADHD is not a disability if you do not let it become one. I have ADHD and I have a successful writing career mainly because my parents acted quickly and had me in different therapies including pediatric speech therapy. There are many successful people out there with ADHD. So, if your child has gotten this diagnosis, take a deep breath, learn all you can, and get ready for what is to come.
Many people think of ADHD children as out-of-control brats raised by lazy parents. Some believe teachers and parents do not want to deal with more challenging children, so they shove medications down their throats. And still others believe ADHD is made up to sell more medications. Leaning on a wealth of personal experience and endless hours of research, I can assure you none of these things are true.
Genetics and Behavior
Not only do I have ADHD, both of my brothers do as well. ADHD can be hereditary. If your child has been diagnosed, think back. Have you had any personal struggles? Did you have trouble sitting still as a child no matter how hard you tried? Have you made snap decisions you in turn regretted later? Does your mind wander? Were you looking out the window while everyone else was studying in school? Though these things in and of themselves do not mean you have ADHD, they can be signs.
I did not know I had ADHD until I was an adult. My brothers were diagnosed, but I never had the same symptoms as they did. My ADHD went unnoticed. As I struggled through my life, my self-esteem fell as I could not do things most other people did with ease. A nine-to-five job nearly killed me. Sitting behind a desk answer phones was like torture for me. I missed work because I could not face going in for five days straight. I was desperately unhappy and depressed. Most people would look at me as lazy and unwilling to work. The opposite was true. I wanted to work. I had bills to pay. The truth was not as easy as the assumptions people made. I had ADHD.
I also did my fair share of alienating people. At times, even now, I blurt things out. Though I have learned to control much of my speech, there are still moments when I say things out loud I should have thought about first. Most people speak without realizing they are filtering their thoughts. Sometimes, people with ADHD do not know how to do this – they have to learn it. I would blurt something out and those around me would make faces at me like I was weird. Indeed, some of it was strange. For this reason, my self-esteem got even worse.
After the Diagnosis
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, please note there are different types. Though the types used to be called ADD and ADHD, they now all put under the ADHD label, but with different presentations. One is hyperactive or impulsive and the other type is inattentive. Ask your doctor to explain the exact type your child has and ask questions until you understand. The more you know, the better you are going to get through this. Also, the specific type will dictate what type of ADHD medication your child may benefit from, or if perhaps your child can go without medication.
Do not beat yourself up over the diagnosis. As noted on www.cdc.gov: “Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Of course, many things, including these, might make symptoms worse, especially in certain people. But the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that they are the main causes of ADHD.”
Depression and low self-esteem are often side effects of ADHD. This is where you need to step in. Your child will struggle with things that come easily to other children. It is important as a parent to let your children know this struggle is because of ADHD. It does not mean other children are smarter than they are. In my experience, those with ADHD are highly intelligent. Some studies suggest this is the truth with all ADHD patients, yet other studies refute that notion. That matters little. Instead of focusing on their struggles, focus on potential and finding new and fun ways to get the job done.
Learning with ADHD
You may cringe when you hear someone say, “Think outside the box!” However, this is what you are going to have to do. All children learn differently. You are going to have to help your child find out what helps them the most. It won’t be easy, but it will be one of the most helpful things you can do for them. Use positive behaviour support strategies to work with ADHD instead of against it. When children fail while they watch others around them succeed with ease, like has been my experience, their self-esteem will suffer.
If they concentrate on homework better with the TV or music on, let them try it out. You may cringe because it goes against everything you have been told, but try it. Be willing to give anything a fair chance, even if you do not understand how it might help. When these things work and they suddenly do better, their self-esteem goes up. There are hundreds of great webpages out there which can help you find new ways to help your child find what works for them. If you work to remind them they are not ‘different,’ it will help. If you tell them it is okay they want or need to do things differently than their peers and it does not make them weird, it makes them human. We are all different in many ways.
Self-Esteem, Success, and ADHD
I’ve done things differently than my friends my entire life. Before I knew I had ADHD, I thought everyone else had the same struggles I do, but they were better at overcoming those struggles. Now I know that is wrong. Once I realized that, every door opened and I found my way of doing things. Once I did, I found success. My self-esteem was restored and I felt great. It really can be that simple, but that self-awareness does not always come overnight. Do not give up on them and then watch them thrive. It does take hard work. I no longer lose my car keys every single time I touch them, but that took time. My friends never have that problem. I’m okay with being different in that regard. I had to learn a different way and I could not be happier about it now.
And in the end, remind your children they are perfect the way they are. Nothing should ever get in the way of their ability to love themselves. If you are searching for spiritual guidance, remember this verse and recite it to them often: Luke 12:7: Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.