** Parenting a Child with ADHD

Parent to Parent Letter
by Alisha Leigh (Pseudonym)

 

I'm not a medical doctor, psychologist, lawyer or other expert. I'm a mom who struggles to help my ADHD/ADD child. In this regard, I've spent a considerable amount of time searching for answers. It's my hope that by sharing this information it will raise public awareness as well as be instrumental in lending a helping hand toward finding "a place to start." There's something here for everybody.

Perhaps you've just learned your child has ADHD, and you are on an emotional roller coaster ride. Perhaps you've scanned this letter and felt an overwhelming sense of fear, frustration, or what next? —Maybe felt, "I can't do this." Consider yourself normal. Parenting a special needs child is a challenge, but you can do it.

On the up side, it is easier to deal with a problem if you know what you are dealing with. Now you can begin to sort things out and make a plan.

Listed below are some tips I've learned along the way:

  1. Accept that there is a problem, whether or not you accept the diagnosis. Denial will not help you or your child.
  2. Do not expend energy grieving that your child is "labeled." No, it's not fair but grieving will not make things better. Take some time to pull yourself together -- then get on with parenting your child.
  3. Be prepared to feel guilty about the time you spend parenting your ADHD child compared to the time you spend with other family members. Be prepared for backlash you may get caught-up in as a result of other family members feeling neglected.
  4. You will have to look deep within yourself to find patience. Patience dealing with your child, patience waiting for appointments, patience waiting for test results, patience when working with the school district, patience, patience, patience.
  5. In general, all children need structure. ADHD children require more structure, routine and consistency.
  6. Behavior management plans do not work overnight—many times it takes two to three months to see results—sometimes longer. Many times the "plan" ends up being a little from this one and a little from that one. Make clear, age and developmentally appropriate rules and consequences for infraction of those rules. Your child must know your expectations.
  7. It is critical that all caregivers in the household be on the same page when it comes to disciplining your child. If one parent perceives his/her spouse to be very lenient and the other has the opposite perspective, it's time for the parents to compromise. If it requires that you have a family meeting and put rules and consequences on paper -- so be it. Behavioral expectations and consequences for violations should be as consistent as possible between caregivers. Remember "structure, consistency." And yes, this is easier said than done.
  8. In my opinion, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is somewhat of a misnomer. It's not that ADHD children do not pay attention, it's that they are bombarded with information. Their filtering system does not work correctly.
  9. It's not unusual for an ADHD child to do well one day, and not so well the next. If you think your child can perform well in school today because s/he did yesterday, you are mistaken.
  10. ADHD children are very sensitive to their environment. The more noise, color, people, clutter, movement, the higher the difficulty level staying focused. Guard against over-stimulus.
  11. ADHD children generally do not transition well. I've found it helpful to give my child "lead time." For example, rather than saying "8:00 p.m. -- bedtime," it works better if I give some lead time by saying, "bedtime in 15 minutes…bedtime in 10 minutes…bedtime in 5 minutes."
  12. Many people you meet will think they know a lot about ADHD, but actually they know very little. Some people do not believe there is such a thing as ADHD. It is these people that inadvertently add to our burden. They have no concept of the disorder, choose to have no more than a cursory knowledge of ADHD, yet tend to shout the loudest and have the strongest opinion that "it's the parenting. I could straighten him out in a week." It would be so wonderful if that was the case, but it is not. If your efforts to educate them fall on deaf ears, print a copy of this letter and give it to them. If that doesn't work "maverickmom" has some excellent advice in my opinion: Tell them to blow it out their socks.
  13. It is our job as parents to teach our children to function in this world to the best of their ability. In this respect, do not let the ADHD "label" cripple them. Keep your expectations high and teach them to adapt the best they can. As a parent, it's difficult to walk the centerline of teaching responsibility while addressing potential limitations.
  14. This day in time everyday living is a challenge. Throw in an ADHD child, the extra time required to parent a special needs child, problems with health insurance, the extra financial strain, perhaps an uncooperative school district, the additional stress within the family unit and you have a formula for a full-blown crisis. Do not forget to take care of you. You can't adequately care for your child(ren) if you're mentally and physically falling apart. Do something special for yourself from time to time. Join a support group, call a crisis hotline when necessary, go see a movie, go shopping, and/or see a counselor.
  15. There is still much that is unknown about ADHD, but treatment has come a long way by comparison to yesteryears. There is reason to believe that ADHD treatment will improve as research advances.
  16. Unfortunately ADHD/ADD rarely travels alone—it appears to be the norm rather than the exception when there are no accompanying disorders such as an auditory processing disorder, learning disorder, bi-polar, non-verbal learning disorder, sensory integration disorder, etc. And just because your child makes good grades in school doesn't mean the child does not have a co-existing disorder.
  17. Trust your instincts. No one knows your child better than you.